The beef industry may have a new slogan in the future: from pasture to vending machine to plate.
McLean Beef in York, Nebraska, found the idea of selling raw beef products as a vending machine in a safe way to reach customers during the pandemic.
Because the McLean Beef was under construction, they quickly redesigned the vestibule to a vending machine.
Brian Kurth, general manager for McLean Beef, said that sales were so popular another vending machine was purchased to keep up with demand.
“Customers can get everything from hamburger to New York strips or ribeye or roasts. We put a little bit of everything in there, “said Kurth.
The carousel-type vending machine keeps meat refrigerated and accepts credit card payments only. They are very selective about the cuts of meat that are sold in the machine to ensure quality, as well as simplified pricing for uniform weights.
People are also reading…
Most customers are local. When other stores are typically closed, people can access the vending machines to appease their craving. Kurth said people will make purchases throughout the night.
“My phone will be pinging from the motion alarm on the cameras in the middle of the night or at 3:30 in the morning from guys buying meat,” said Kurth. “It’s been really popular for people working overnight or swinging the night shift.”
The meat sold in the vending machines comes directly from the McLean Farms, which started as a small family farm in northern York County. The cattle are then brought to York to be processed and packaged at McLean Beef.
Ralph and Maxine McLean established a dairy farm in 1949. Ralph’s son Jim added the beef feedlot to McLean Farms in 1961. The third generation, Max and his wife Jeanette, expanded their business beyond cow-calf operations and feedlot to include a meat processing. facility, retail store, online sales and restaurant. Now the fourth generation is involved in the business, as well.
As the third generation, Max McLean takes pride in its livestock and its end products. His feedlot consists of two custom-feed finishing lots with 9,000 head capacity combined.
“We take pride in the high quality beef we produce,” said McLean.
McLean hand-picks each beef animal to be sold in the McLean Beef store.
“I’ve had an eye for what’s good after twenty years,” said McLean. “I strive for the upper two-thirds to be sold in my store case.”
The 21-day dry age method is credited for the superior flavor and tenderness of McLean Beef.
With the excellent quality, their thriving meat business continued to expand to the point where demand exceeded inventory.
The meat processing segment of McLean Beef was a combination of fulfilling a dream and necessity for responding when processing facilities were consistently overbooked.
“The expansion of the McLean Beef brand of McLean Farms was to be their own beef process,” Kurth said. “It started as a dream but quickly grew. Now we have a facility that can process about 20 beef a week and are hoping to get up to 30 beef per week. “
In addition to harvesting their own retail beef, they also process other brands and individual producers. A full-time USDA inspector is on site daily.
Anyone seeking beef to fill their freezer can purchase a quarter, half, or whole beef by visiting their website at www.mcleanbeef.com or calling 402-362-0055.
McLean will select the animal from his feedlot, then the customer chooses the cuts. Kurth said that these sets apart from McLean Beef because most processing facilities do not supply the animal.
All meat is vacuum packed with a roll stock machine. The anaerobic seal locks in quality better than regular freezer paper that is typically used.
The processing facility has a slaughter room that can process both beef and hogs. To accommodate the extra aging time, their long-term aging cooler has a 100-head capacity. In the USDA-inspected fabrication rooms, the meat is cut and processed to the customer’s request.
At the McLean Beef store alone, there are 18 full-time employees. Finding workers with the appropriate skillset for the processing facility has been a challenge, Kurth said. The recent hiring of an experienced butcher has allowed production to increase.
If you are craving beef but do not want to cook, you can now order a fully-prepared meal from the McLean Beef restaurant. The kitchen opened September 16, 2021.
“Build your own burger has become very popular. We’re the favorite spot in York to get a meal, “Kurth said.
Located at the front of the store, the restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 1:30 for carry out or dine in and also serves breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Next time you are driving along Interstate 80 near Exit 353, stop by McLean Beef. Even if their restaurant or storefront is not open, you can always try out vending machines. From their pasture to your plate, McLean Beef satisfies people’s hunger for Nebraska-grown beef anytime of the night or day.
Reporter Kristen Sindelar has loved agriculture her entire life, coming from a diversified farm with three generations working side-by-side in Northeastern Nebraska. Reach her at Kristen.Sindelar@midwestmessenger.com.
General Chat Chat Lounge