Positive Change At Market: People Buying More Meat

August 27, 2018
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Positive Change At Market: People Buying More Meat

The owners of small butcher shop Jerry & Son Market in Nanticoke are seeing a positive change in their business: people are buying more meat.

Gerald John Gerrity Jr., who has been cutting meat for 40 years and is the fifth generation store owner in his family, said he has been noticing more people are buying meat since the economy improved after President Donald Trump was elected.

“Since the November election, business has increased,” said Gerrity, while cutting sirloin steaks. “People have money to spend. When the economy is slow, people eat a lot of macaroni and cheese. That’s just the way it is.”

Gerrity owns Jerry & Son Market with his wife Joanne. His son Gerald J. Gerrity III is the sixth generation in the business located in Nanticoke for the last 29 years.

He said some previous years were tough for small businesses but this year, people are expected to eat more meat than ever before.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects the average consumer will eat a record amount of red meat and poultry — an average of 222 pounds per person. That’s 20 pounds more meat per person per year than in 2014 and it surpasses a record set in 2004.

The record meat consumption is occurring despite more people becoming vegans and vegetarians. The change also comes as more people are shunning carbohydrates in favor of protein.

“Everybody is allowed to do whatever they choose but I wouldn’t give up meat,” Joanne Gerrity said. “When we get older as women, protein is important.”

Another change is where people are buying their meat. More people are going old school by shopping at specialty butcher shops.

Luzerne County is home to a number of small specialty meat markets and butcher shops like Jerry & Son Market, Harry’s Market in Wilkes-Barre, Plains Meat Market and Morgan’s Butcher Shop in Pittston.

They have carved out a niche by offering personalized customer service and high quality products.

Jerry & Son Market prides itself on quality. Popular sellers are its smoked and fresh kielbasa made with a family recipe, sausage, steaks and hamburger patties, said Gerald John Gerrity Jr.

“We refuse anything out of date,” he said. “For kielbasa, we use our own recipes. We make our own spices. We mix everything. We don’t buy spices from anybody else. We try to give people a good product at a fair price. If I won’t eat it, I won’t buy it.”

His wife Joanne said as a result of an improving economy, she also sees people are spending more money.

“This summer, I saw people are going on vacations. They went to the beach as families and bought meat to go on vacation,” she said.

She said customers tell her they like to come to Jerry & Son Market for the quality of meat.

“Quality sells and it shows,” she said.

Jerry & Son Market has a number of repeat and loyal customers, including those who moved away and returned to the area.

Customers at the market recently included Jack Chmielewski, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, for half the year and spends the other half of the year in Wapwallopen. He said he has been coming to Jerry & Son Market for about 25 years.

“We love his kielbasa,” he said. “The scrapple is the best around as far as I’m concerned.”

John Morgan, owner of Morgan’s Butcher Shop, has noticed more people are buying meat because they are on ketogenic diets in which they eat more high-protein and low-carb foods like meat as well as fish, eggs, vegetables and natural fats like butter or olive oil.

“I have customers doing this. They’re spending more on meat,” Morgan said. “Eating meat is a ‘woo-hoo’ for a butcher shop. I’m happy to accommodate the people on this diet.”

He has owned Morgan’s Butcher Shop at 106 Butler St., Pittston for more than four years. He said he reshaped it from being a long-time mom and pop neighborhood grocery store to focus more on selling more meats.

“I transformed it into a primary butcher shop,” Morgan said.

He said he finds more customers like to buy their meat at a butcher shop for the quality.

“I think people appreciate the fact that there is minimal processing,” Morgan said. “We bring in everything fresh and process it right in front of the customers. It’s the old-fashioned way of doing it. Everything is ground right in front of the customer. There are no preservatives.”

Bruce Fendler, the third generation owner of Harry’s Market at 645 Hazle St. in Wilkes-Barre, said he has been seeing new customers in recent months.

He said customers like his market because meat is cut and trimmed differently than big grocery stores. Customers also like the service, quality and price, he said.

The market, which sells its own homemade sausage, fresh and smoked kielbasa, custom cut steaks, hamburger patties and other meats, has been in business since 1945.

Damian Solovey, owner of Plains Meat Market, has seen an increase in sales in red meats as well as pork products. Sales went up about 20 percent within the last nine months, he said.

“I don’t know what to attribute this to but if it’s a national trend, then it’s definitely being seen here as well,” Solovey said.

The market has been in business for 42 years and it was owned by the Solovey family for the last 27 years.

Solovey said he thinks more people are choosing to come to a specialty meat market because “people finally got to the point where they would like to know where their meat is coming from.”

“I’m hoping that folks are starting to understand that if you want good, solid personal service and quality, then you’re going to your hometown butcher shop,” Solovey said.

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