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Finding Minnesota: Steve’s Meat Market

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
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ELLENDALE, Minn. (WCCO) — Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it’s time to get ready for a flurry of additional holiday meals leading up through New Years.

The centerpiece of most meals tends to be the meat. So this week in Finding Minnesota, we traveled to a meat shop in southern Minnesota.

In the small town of Ellendale, just south of Owatonna, is Steve’s Meat Market, a family-owned business that’s been going strong for nearly 40 years.

It’s the place to go to add some flavor to that family get-together, but to fully appreciate Steve’s Meat Market, you have to know a few things about Steve Eaker.

First of all, he loved his work.

“He always told our daughters, ‘Be happy with what you are working with, and be glad to go to your job every day.’ There were often times I would go, ‘Is he married to me, or is he married to the meat market?’ I kind of never pushed it because I knew I might lose,” said Steve’s wife Donnavon Eaker.

The national awards Steve won for sausage making and meat processing cover the walls of the store.

In 1993, his expertise caught the attention of Byerly’s and Lunds. The grocery store chain sells Steve’s bacon and sausages under its private label.

“It’s a good marriage. It works for them and it works for us. We are able to continue to make more product, and having our product line. Even though there are different labels on there, it’s our product,” Donnavon said.

Steve’s wife and daughter have kept the family business booming since his death five years ago.

His daughter Rachael Lee worked by his side the last 10 years of his life.

“The nice thing about it is when I do miss him, I am here. And he’s here all the time. I can feel him here. I will be working at night and kind of turn, I can still tell he’s still here,” Rachael said.

Racheal took WCCO behind the scenes to show what few people actually ever get to see: how they make the sausage. She still uses her Dad’s secret recipes and trains the staff in the way he would have.

Rachael showed us the smoke house room, where high-tech machines get the job done in a matter of hours.

Another part of the business is located in a separate part of the building.

It goes back to how Steve got his start as a child, working with farmers who need a butcher for their animals.

“I always accused him, as I said earlier, of being married to this place. Guess what I am married to now,” said Donnavon.

Steve’s Meat Market sells more than 150 different sausages and meats that are smoked, cured or fully-cooked. Now Steve’s daughter Rachael is following in his footsteps, by winning awards for her sausage-making skills.

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