My first introduction to K & R Meats was over 8 years ago during a Minnesota Cattleman’s Farm Tour hosted by the Snake River Cattlemen’s Club out of Mora, MN. We toured their facilities north of Mora on Hwy 65 where they slaughter and butcher livestock for local producers. We didn’t get to see any processing during the tour but it was still fascinating to tour the kill floor.
It has been a few years since my last visit to Mora so it was exciting to see that they have opened a retail shop in town. According to the owner Ken, they do not sell any locally raised & slaughtered animals at their retail counter due to the excess of government documentation. I’m not sure how long the shop has been up and running but there was an overwhelming feeling of newness by everything from the walls and counters to the cash register and staff. The shop was unique in that it is the first market I’ve been to where they also offered hot deli items that one might enjoy for lunch. The meat counter was meticulously laid out with each cut of meat sitting perfect with bright red steaks and ground beef dominating the meat case.
As a bacon scout I was a little disappointed with only one section of smoked bacon. I guess my expectations are a direct result of my culture rubbing off me. We are so used to having variety and multiple choices when shopping for a product. The bacon that they did have on display was spot on with its marbling and thickness of the cut. When you look up bacon in the dictionary, this is the photo that should be on display.
I continued to peruse the meat counter to find my way to the brats and sausages. I was immediately surprised by the cost of the brats averaging $7 for a package of 5-6 brats. I’m so use to looking at the final price of the meat that I didn’t catch the per lb price. My mind started to drift back to the brat display at RJ’s in Hudson, WI and their price of $4.50-$5.00 a package of brats.
My eye caught a package of “backwoods bacon”. The product is called “bacon” because it is suppose to resemble the flavor and look of bacon. Butchers have figured out a way to combine both pork and beef cuts, smoke it, form it and then cut it into strips all without using a casing. I’m assuming they are using some sort of gelatin to hold the meat together without using a natural casing. This is the third time that I’ve seen a product similar to this so I thought it was time to jump in with my fork and skillet.
While cooking the “bacon” it gave off a similar smell to traditional bacon but the eating experience resembled a fresh beef jerky. I believe that this type of meat product is more common than one would think. I also think that it is indigenous to meat markets and is a way to use up trimmings or add value to undesirable cuts or fat. Let me go on record and say that I enjoyed eating the product. I’m not against it; I just think they need to come up with a name other than bacon. My gut tells me (no pun intended) that anything other than pork belly should not be called bacon. It’s the same argument for dairy producers & soy marketers. Milk can only come from mammals that possess mammary glands. The soy marketers should either label their product as soy liquid or soy juice. Sorry citrus growers.
The time had come to put pork to skillet and boy were we not disappointed. As the bacon cooked, my camper in Northern Minnesota slowly filled up with the sweet smell of smoke and bacon. The fat rendered down leaving a nice crispy, meaty slice of bacon with the right amount of smoke and salt. As the next photo shows, the meat was still the focus after cooking. The cut was of medium thickness which allowed the cooked bacon strip to be just perfect. Nothing fancy just good old fashion bacon at a reasonable price.
Maybe K&R doesn’t need to add anything to their bacon. I guess if you have a great product, why mess with it by adding jalapenos or Cajun spices. Sometimes we need to slow down and enjoy the simple goodness of salt, smoke and pork fat. Isn’t that the recipe that has sustained bacon over the centuries? Thank you K&R for keeping it simple.
While heading up to northern Minnesota or if you live near Mora, BaconScouts recommend that you check out the folks at K&R Meats. They provide friendly customer service while offering a variety of fresh & frozen meat products.
Once again, thank you to America’s livestock families and butchers for providing us with the best meat products in the world.