Meet the Meat Guys

“Psst! How about a case of meat? Good stuff. Great price. C’mere and have a look.” It happened to Joe’s wife one day as she pumped gas on her lunch break. She and a friend followed the peddler to a van in the Amoco parking lot to have a look. It was tempting. The beef was nestled in a box, frozen and shrink-wrapped so tight it looked like dark red ingots. And it was cheap—$130. To make a strange story short, they bought the meat. They split the case, and Joe’s wife drove her share home, where she struggled for half an hour to get it all in the freezer.

Not everyone thinks of beef in terms of “a case.” We all know that a case of beer is twenty-four bottles, and a case of the flu is about ten days. A case of beef, to help you get your head around it, is four T-bones, ten filets, eight strips, ten sirloins, twelve to eighteen tips, and eighteen patties—a five-year supply for Joe and his wife. And Joe was, to say the least, suspicious of the circumstances. “It could be stolen,” he scolded his wife, “or recalled for contamination.” He would exercise more caution, he claimed, if he were buying crack.

Because Joe is me, and because I get paid to do it, I checked out the only lead in the case. On the side of the van, one witness said she saw lettering: “The Meat Guys.” A Dex search yielded a pair of phone numbers. The Bloomington number was disconnected. Messages left at a number in Newport, Minnesota, went unanswered. The website MeatGuys.com displayed the message “The Meat Guys website is temporarily down. We are sorry for the inconvenience.”

Inconvenience be damned, I spent a Monday morning driving to the address attached to the Newport phone number. If there was a pair of guys butchering neighborhood cats in some remote exurban garage and selling it to gullible suburban wives, I was going to get the story before the I-Team.

I was greeted in the small front office of the Meat Guys building by the Meat Guy himself, Mike Meyer, a tall, fit thirtysomething in a clean white shirt and jeans. Qwest had been out to fix their phone system last week, he apologized, but the “Spirit of Service in Action” had somehow left them without Phone Service in Reality. Meyer was amused by the cloak-and-dagger story of the clandestine purchase, and explained that drivers with something left over from their delivery routes are free to sell it off. “How do you like the meat?” he wanted to know. My favorite was strip steak, marinated in Worcestershire, olive oil, and wine, grilled fast over charcoal and hickory. The T-bones ended up smoked, shredded, and simmered with garlic, peppers, and onions to make a delicious burrito filling.

Meyer and co-owner Michael Gott have just wrapped up an unexpectedly good first year, with around one million dollars in home-delivery sales, and he chatted for a bit about The Meat Guys’ future. They are opening a branch in Phoenix, and he has dreams of nationwide markets. “My personal goal—it’s kind of goofy,” he mused, “but if we could get the money, I’d like to sponsor a Meat Guys NASCAR car.” I can’t wait to see the decals.—Joe Pastoor