DARR — A custom slaughter and meat processing facility centrally located in Darr has been open for nearly a year.
Busy Bones Butcher features a curing room, smokehouse, grinders and slicers to produce quality meat to a customer’s specifications.
Owner Kent Guthard said he chose the central Nebraska location for the convenience of customers and because of the quality of livestock raised in the area.
"We raise more premium beef than anywhere else in the world, and we don’t have a locker real close," Guthard said. The business is something he has planned for many years.
Busy Bones Butcher is located on U.S. Highway 30 at 75829 Road 426, which is three miles north of Interstate 80. It was purposefully placed on a rural site near two of Nebraska’s main arteries, Guthard said. He has lived just three miles north for 19 years.
"If we’re going to be agriculture, we’ll be in the country," was Guthard’s philosophy. "Nobody likes dragging a trailer through town," he said.
"The building was built brand new, dirt underneath it and all," Guthard said, noting that an "eyesore" was torn down to ready the property for construction.
Although it was a huge investment — Guthard sold a herd of cows to launch it — he said he felt it was time to act.
"If we don’t do it, I’ll wonder ‘what if’ for the rest of my life," he said.
Ease of access was taken into consideration in developing a drive-through system for trucks hauling trailers. There is no backing up required, Guthard said.
The facility was built to process up to 30 head a week, he said, but is not at that capacity yet. He said finding qualified laborers has been more difficult than attracting customers wanting meat processed.
"It is a lot of physical work, and it’s not for everybody," Guthard said.
Busy Bones Butcher currently has nine employees, but it took sorting through numerous applications to find them.
One key employee has worked in meat processing all of his life and brings a reputation for producing premium products along with retail experience. Four other employees came with knife skills and are being trained. Additionally, there is an employee devoted to customer service and handling paperwork.
"We are starting to grow into something," Guthard said. "We’re having fun and trying to get there."
So far, Busy Bones Butcher has processed beef, pork, lamb and a handful of deer. There haven’t been any goats yet, but Guthard anticipates there will be requests in the future. Guthard said the meat processed onsite after slaughter is for private use and is labeled not for retail.
Guthard said Busy Bones Butcher participated in Hunters Feeding the Hungry, a program in which donated deer meat is ground for distribution through food pantries.
Busy Bones Butcher also offers meat for sale in its onsite retail store, similar to cuts of meat offered at a grocery store, including an assortment of roasts and steaks.
It also sells specialty items such as jalapeño cheddar summer sausage, chili dog brats, ham and cheese hot dogs, chili cheese hot dogs and pineapple teriyaki snack sticks.
As the business grows, Guthard would like to combine flavors and ingredients to create products that aren’t available on the market yet.
Guthard said customers are encouraged to call ahead if they have a large order.
Guthard said he was born and raised on a dairy farm at Litchfield and has worked in agriculture his entire life. He also farms on the side, has a herd of cows and does custom hay.
"I’ve been in agriculture my whole life. I guess I’m still wearing the same jeans," he said. "This is the final stage of the livestock side of it, so I put my hands on it."
After years of arranging the transport of cattle to Litchfield for processing, he said he wanted to build something closer.
Guthard said the business name was selected as a nod to a former employer. He worked for Busy B Ranch in Holdrege. Among the various names considered, Busy Bones Butcher had more meaning because of that relationship.
"It’s a lot more personal," Guthard said of what the business offers. "We’re family owned, not corporate."
Busy Bones Butcher is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. It is closed Sundays.