By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Apr 12, 2016 at 11:01 AM

In December, we brought you the news of Kettle Range Meat Co., a new retail butcher shop specializing in ethically raised and humanely slaughtered beef, pork and chicken. And, after an extraordinarily busy four months filled with construction, inspections and preparations, the old Saz’s Catering building at 5501 W. State St. has been transformed into a full service butcher shop.  

When you walk into the shop, which opened quietly on Monday, April 11, you’ll find a wide range of both fresh and frozen cuts of meat – from chops and steaks to ground meats, whole and cut-up chickens, and a variety of specialty cuts, including these tomahawk steaks.

The shop will also feature a variety of fresh and smoked sausages.

These days, while most beef is "wet aged" in plastic shrink-wrap, Kettle Range will also offer up a variety of cuts that are dry aged on site in a special aging room, which is visible to customers through a window in the shop. There, the meat hangs in optimal conditions, resulting in both the concentration and saturation of the natural flavor, as well as tenderization of the meat itself, thanks to the work of naturally occurring enzymes, which help to break down the meat’s tissues, resulting in a buttery, tender texture.

In addition to meat, the shop also carries a nice selection of local cheeses, sauces, spices rubs and condiments, along with a variety of prepared food items.

"We’re keeping things pretty focused," says Kettle Range co-owner Mark Bearce. "We’re concentrating on products that naturally accompany meat products. But, we’re also trying to keep the selection local and regional. We may have a few items that are classic, national brands; but 80 to 90 percent of what we offer will be local."

Bearce and business partner Joe Parajecki have also hired two full-time employees, both of whom will offer value added to the butcher shop’s offerings.

Scott Buer, former owner of Bolzano Artisan Meats, has been hired as the house butcher. He and Parajecki will head up meat cutting operations, along with dry aging, curing and smoking of meats.

"It’s a different kind of a shop," says Buer. "There are only so many cuts on the cow or the pig or the goat. So, this is about getting creative. Ears will be smoked, bones will go into bone broth, skin can become chicharones. We’ll also be rendering leftover fat, really making use of every last part."

In an effort to enact a full-blown "zero waste" policy, Kettle Range has also hired Chef Jeff Marquardt, whose experience includes work with St. Paul Fish Company and restaurants including Goodkind, Vanguard and Sanford. Marquardt’s role will be to make full use of off-cuts, bones, trimmings and the like to create a variety of value-added products, including pork, chicken and beef stocks and – eventually – ramen and pho stocks.

"We’ll be using bones to make stocks and broths that people can purchase," says Marquardt. "The goal is really to have people be able to come in here and pick up foods that are ready to reheat and eat … things that taste like you spent the whole day making them. I want this to feel like the old school style full service butcher shops."

Currently, the shop stocks a variety of pates, rillettes and prepared foods including Swedish and Italian meatballs, meatloaf, pulled pork and Cornish pasties. And beginning in the next two weeks, the shop will also offer a limited number of ready-made meals, including pork, beef and chicken options with accompanying side dishes.

"We’ll make meals like pork roast or roasted chicken with sides," says Marquardt, "And even things like barbacoa or carnitas for tacos. They will all be packaged to feed either two or four people."

Also on the docket are ready to cook meals, including marinated meats that are prepared and ready to be cooked in a slow cooker.

"I’m really excited about what we’re doing here," notes Marquardt. "Not only the whole animal butchery, but also the sustainability aspect of how we’re doing things. I think Milwaukee is really prime for this right now. We’re getting to the point where we’re conscious of where our food is coming from, and we’re willing to pay for food that’s local and fresh. So, my goal is to really bring in as many farmers’ produce as we can and really show it off."

And don’t be afraid to ask questions. As a full-service butcher shop, Kettle Range is there to offer more than just beautiful slabs of grassfed meats.

Need to know how to cook that roast, chop or steak? They’ve got tips and tricks. Need some help pulling together a cheese and charcuterie plate? No problem. Want spices, rubs or marinades? Kettle Range has all of those, too.

Parajecki says the shop is literally a dream come true for him.

"It’s a dream 30 years in the making," he says, "And it’s really amazing to see it happening right before our eyes."

He says that, for now, they will be focusing on providing basic butchered items to customers. But he says they’ll eventually branch out to do more cured meat products.

"Right now, we’re bringing in some products from other companies," says Parajecki. "But, eventually we’ll be doing a variety of whole muscle charcuterie including pancetta, braceola, lomo, lardo and coppa."

In addition to the brick and mortar shop, Kettle Range Meats will also continue to sell online through its buyer’s club, as well as at area farmer’s markets, including the weekly Tosa Market. 

"It's about more than just having a shop and selling meat," notes Parajecki. "It's really about becoming part of the community here."

Initially, Kettle Range Meats is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.