HOOSICK FALLS — Portable slaughter is rare, but in this area there are only two people who do it and Greg Stratton is one of them.
Meat processing is not Stratton’s first career, though. In fact, he worked for a welding supply company for 30 years until it was sold. He said he grew tired of the owner, but before he left the company, he set out to learn the trade that would ultimately become a second career for him.
Stratton is originally from Bennington, Vermont, where he was raising his own animals, but between his neighbors and trouble with permits, he decided to move. He bought a small farm in Hoosick Falls, which has been nothing but “accommodating,” he said.
Then Stratton learned that the person he used for meat processing was retiring.
And Eagle Bridge Custom Meats, who used to do his smoking, became a U.S. Department of Agriculture owned shop and stopped doing custom work; they do the slaughter for Grazin’ Angus Acres in Ghent.
Eagle Bridge prompted Stratton to get into custom work himself. So in 2008, he put up a small building to do his own meat processing, which he did from 2009-10.
He stopped in to see Bob Hoffman in Cherry Plain, Rensselaer County, who was retiring. Stratton bought all of the contents of Hoffman’s shop, which included a portable slaughtering shop — the ticket to Stratton’s success.
As part of the deal, Hoffman offered to tutor Stratton, as did Eagle Bridge.
So in 2010, while Stratton was still working full time, he worked part time and on his vacations with Hoffman and at Eagle Bridge to learn the trade better.
In June 2011, he left the welding supply company. He constructed a 1,400-square-foot addition on his shop and in September 2011, he officially opened full time under the name Stratton’s Custom Meats & Smokehouse, LLC.
He processes beef, pigs, sheep, goats and during hunting season, deer and all wild game, which has included moose. When the process is done, customers pick up their meat at his shop.
While a lot of his business is in the Hoosick Falls area, he services the Berkshires, Rensselaer and Columbia counties, Saugerties and into Washington County some, however, there’s another meat processor in that area so he tries not to step on any toes.
While he prefers to stay in the northeastern part of Columbia County, he has a really good customer in Ancramdale.
Hoffman had a lot of customers in Columbia County, so when Stratton took over, they traveled around dropping off brochures to get Stratton’s name out.
Since portable slaughter is a rarity, “it’s a big thing,” said Stratton. He noted that it’s easier to slaughter an animal when they’re relaxed, so keeping them on site helps with the process. Plus, customers don’t have to transport the animals, another hassle of meat processing.
And “the portable truck is self-contained, which is good,” he added.
Currently, Stratton has about eight to 10 customers in Columbia County, but he has talked with several other potential customers. He had a booth at the Columbia County Fair last summer and plans to be there again this year. He said that “brought quite a lot of business.”
Right now, business is slow. Stratton is currently making venison products like jerky. He processed venison for customers after Christmas.
The busiest time is in the fall, from October to December, and then it picks up again at the tail end of February/beginning of March and will busy until the end of May.
This past fall, until the end of December, he processed around 80 beef, 75 pigs, 34-40 lambs and sheep and 170 deer. And he’s not even a year into business.
One of the biggest issues with meat processing is the waste. About one-third of the animal is waste, said Stratton. The customer decides what to do with the extremities, such as the feet, head, etc. Whatever waste is leftover from processing at his shop is hauled off by a rendering company that picks it up there and brings it to a dog food company.
“Animal fat is used in a lot of stuff,” noted Stratton.
His job is seven days a week and because he plans on staying small, it’s also a family affair: his sons — one works part time — his wife and daughter and his son-in-law, who also works part time.
While he’s been advertising in local papers, he really doesn’t need to, he said. “Word of mouth will drive this,” he said, which is why customer service is so important. From the customers he has, they have “gone out of the way to complement” him.
His business motto is: Portable slaughtering at your location for your convenience. And that it is.
Stratton’s Custom Meats & Smokehouse is located at 705 Pine Valley Road, Hoosick Falls, NY 12090. Stratton can be reached at (518) 686-8299.