By Shannon Traphagen

Local butcher shops are becoming few and far between, but many people are beginning to wake up to the values of shopping small and local. Buffalo communities and those seeking an alternative to the big box stores are part of a growing market that demands small-scale alternatives for buying their meats. Consumers are comforted in knowing where their meat comes from, how it’s prepared, and the care that goes into it. “I come here every Saturday to get my meats for the week. I used to come here with my dad when I was a child, and now I bring my grandson,” said a Hamburg consumer, inside the Federal Meats store in Hamburg, NY.

Federal Meats was established in 1930 and has been continually run by the Dowdall family. “What we find sets us apart in the marketplace is the special attention we put in procuring the finest quality products, along with the importance of face to face customer service, and the interaction we have at individual stores. We really pay attention to what our customers are looking for,” says fourth-generation owner, Julie Gottstine. “I even have my kids work here. We are so proud of that longevity,” Gottstine says.

Part of Federal Meat’s success is the standard they set for offering the freshest meats and ingredients. Everything is made in small batches to maintain the consistency and quality of the product. Federal Meats uses their own family recipes for seasoning the meats, and whole chickens and turkeys are sourced locally from Wendel Farms. And, with the continuous rotation of fresh and frozen entrees made right in stores daily, Federal Meats offers families and individuals great options for quick lunch and dinner pick-ups.

“Because we have ten locations, we tailor selections at every store to the community each store serves. For example, our Hamburg store has different meats and meal entrees from our Kensington Ave. store, and Kensington Ave. is different from Cheektowaga,” says Gottstine. Another reason Federal Meats thrives is the value the staff and owners place on customer service. All meats are available to be cut to order for any specific size or amount. Have a gluten allergy? No problem, the butchers have meticulous documentation for all meat offerings and will print out full labels so customers can be assured of what’s in their meats. Federal Meats includes expertise and accuracy as part of their service so that customers with special digestive needs or allergies can call ahead to have meats or deli products prepared in a fashion that suits them the best. The local butcher is also the only store in Buffalo to serve a rotisserie roasted haddock fish fry, sold traditionally every Friday.

“That face-to-face interaction is crucial,” says Gottstine, adding, “Customers come in, and have lots of questions that they may not get answered somewhere else. If someone needs to know how to cook a particular selection, we will print out or even e-mail them cooking instructions.” Don’t see what you are looking for–not a problem. Gottstine explains that what’s visible is only a fraction of what they offer. They have product menus readily available and customers can always ask the butcher for a specific item.

I frequent my local Federal store often, and when I ask them what the casing for the chicken sausage is made from, right away I have a thorough explanation. But, they go one step further, with one butcher remembering I pay attention to sodium levels, “We prepared our links and sausages fresh this morning. Here’s the label for the seasonings in this, and the sodium count.”

“Customers have come to rely on and trust us. They have stories and memories of coming in with their folks. There’s something to be said for that. We take pride in knowing that we help families and individuals. We personalize it. They see us as family–and that’s exactly how we feel about them,” says Gottstine.

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