KEARNEY — As grilling season is upon us, veteran meat cutter Vernon Schlotzhauer, who works at Price chopper off Watson Drive in Kearney, offers a glimpse into the world of those who work behind the meat department’s glass case to bring quality proteins to the masses.
By shopping at grocery stores like Cosentino’s Price Chopper locations, customers are supporting local workers. They are getting quality products from trained professionals who work on site and can provide tips and suggestions, he said.
“I would encourage people to shop at their local grocery store because we cut everything right there. … Those big supercenters don’t; they get their stuff shipped in from the plant,” the meat cutter with four decades of experience said. “Supporting your local store supports people like me and I need the business.”
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
“Getting back and forth to work every day,” Schlotzhauer said of his 45-minute one-way commute. “Once I get to work it’s easy.”
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?
“I like the people I work with and I like the customers. I’m personable,” said the meat cutter who is described by Store Director Kevin Norris as a jokester.
What would surprise people most to learn about your job?
“People that have normal lives are used to having weekends and holidays off. We work all of them. At this store, we work six days a week,” Schlotzhauer said. “One week I might be into work at 5 in the morning and the next week I may go to work at 1 in the afternoon. … Everybody works Saturday here and Sunday. It would probably fall under the challenges too, but meat doesn’t have but about a couple-day shelf life. Every day we come in, we start from scratch so we’re here all the time.”
What’s the most common question you get about what you do?
“What’s the best steak to grill,” he said, adding the answer depends on a customer’s taste, but he likes Kansas City strips. Ribeyes, he said, are another good choice.
Would 10-year-old you be surprised that you are in this position or field?
“Probably, I was one of those who didn’t know what they wanted to do when they were high school,” he said of growing up in Marshall. “Down there in Marshall, they had a meat-packing plant. They paid real good money and I got a job there right out high school. It wasn’t much fun working there though so I ended up going and getting a job cutting retail meat. It was just by chance I did this. … I actually took a pay cut to go to retail, but in the end, it’s worked out well.”
Outside of the workplace, when you meet somebody new, what tips you off they are another meat cutter?
“If you just heard them in conversation I guess. Most people, when they come to pick out, they pick out a nice lean piece of meat. … but I’ve had people tell me they’ve picked out a steak and it was a bit tough or dry. It’s because most people will come in and buy lean meat. Well, the best way to tell people like me apart is to hear them talking about how stuff is cooked,” he said. “… Marbling is all about the flavor and it comes from fat. When I grind my meat for a burger or something, I like a good amount of fat in it because it makes it more juicy and tender.”