VENTNOR — Marcacci Meat Market owner Musa Can considers himself a backyard-barbecue expert.
If given a choice, many customers might prefer a filet, which is typically the most expensive cut of meat. That’s a rookie mistake, he said.
“The boneless ribeye is the best-tasting cut,” he said. “You get a fuller flavor.”
Can, 34, of Ventnor, has spent the past six years immersing himself in the meat business. He owns and operates Marcacci Meat Market on Ventnor Avenue in Ventnor and a second store on Vine Road in Vineland, both supplied by his own Vineland slaughterhouse.
Locally operated slaughterhouses are less common today, he said. But controlling this part of the supply chain gives his business a distinct advantage over competitors when it comes to providing customers with the freshest and choicest cuts of meats and sausages.
Can resurrected Marcacci’s slaughterhouse when he bought the family business in 2006. Today, he buys Angus steers from Nebraska and Texas for restaurant and dinner tables across South Jersey.
“This gives us an amazing advantage. Since we cut out the middleman, our customers get products that are fresher and cheaper,” he said.
“Finding a skilled butcher is one of the most difficult things we do,” he said. “A dairy cow isn’t dangerous, but a 2,000-pound young steer can kill you with a single kick.”
Slaughterhouses are strictly regulated with an on-site inspector who oversees all work, Can said.
About 125,910 people work as butchers or meat cutters in the United States, federal records show. Most work in supermarkets. Fewer than 10 percent work in slaughterhouses.
Meat cutters in New Jersey earn an hourly wage of about $19.73, one of the best rates of pay for this occupation in the country.
Nationwide, it’s not uncommon for butcher shops to have their own slaughterhouse facilities, said Eric Mittenthal, spokesman for the American Meat Institute, a trade group based in Washington, D.C.
Mittenthal said this offers the advantage of providing more flexibility over the supply chain but the disadvantage of incurring higher overhead costs associated with this aspect of the meat business.
The Ventnor store grinds all its ground beef in its kitchen, which has a display window so people can watch the foods being prepared, Can said.
High volume means his two stores have a daily supply of fresh meats. Even so, the shop occasionally runs out of a particular cut. This is the exception, Can said, but is bound to happen in a store that refuses to freeze its products.
“A supermarket will always have a frozen rack of lamb,” he said. “But I only stock one day’s worth of ribeye. That’s something customers understand.”
The store also prepares its own sausages, all made from boneless pork loin, chicken or veal.
Business has been better at the market since the recession as more customers seek food bargains. The store specializes in offering bulk deals. Customers who have the freezer space can reap tremendous savings over a month’s time by stocking up, he said.
“If you buy the whole loin, you can get fresh pork chops for $1.89 per pound,” he said. “It’s half the price and fresher.”
The store works closely with some of the region’s top chefs, Can said. Quality is imperative, so he offers only the best products, such as the store’s poultry from Delaware’s Mountaire Farms.
“In this economy, people are driven by price. But quality is what brings them back,” he said.
Marcacci Meat Market is working hard to meet the growing customer demand, he said.
A sudden spike in demand can pose problems when he has to pay a premium to suppliers on short notice, he said. But overall it’s not a bad problem for any business to have.
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