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Harmony couple open meat processing facility

Harmony couple open meat processing facility
Michael and Vanessa Aggen are pictured in a cooler at their meat processing business Oak Meadow Meats Friday, February 11, 2011 in Harmony. The business, which opened in November, offers custom meat processing and will soon be adding a meat counter for retail sale.

HARMONY — Owning and operating a meat processing facility wasn't something Michael Aggen dreamed about when he was growing up.

He always wanted to continue working on the family farm near Harmony.

However, the idea of working with different cuts of meat grew on him while he worked at the University of Minnesota's meat lab during college.

After learning there was a demand for custom meat processing in his hometown, Aggen, 27, and his wife, Vanessa, 23, decided to move to Harmony to open Oak Meadow Meats.

Construction on the building started in Harmony's industrial park last summer and the Aggens began processing venison for local hunters in November.


Since then they've taken in beef, pork, lamb and goat.

"We were pretty overwhelmed at first," Vanessa said. "The venison was rolling in, which is a good problem to have."

The business was named Oak Meadow Meats after the family farm, Oak Meadow Farms, where they raise Simmental breeding stock.

"Eventually we'd like to tie the two together and sell some of our meat here," Aggen said.

The couple worked with the local bank and the Small Business Administration to get loans.

Currently, they employ five people besides themselves.

"It's exciting to be able to create jobs in a rural area," said Vanessa, who grew up in Byron. "It just doesn't happen very often.

Vanessa currently works four days a week as market development director at Lanesboro Local, an organization in Lanesboro that connects producers with consumers.


The couple met at the University of Minnesota where both were studying to get degrees in the agriculture field — Michael in animal science and Vanessa in ag economics.

"It all happened at the U," Michael said. "I started working at the meat lab and I really liked it. I learned the different cuts of meat and how to cut them."

After college he worked as an inspector for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

That experience helped him design his own facility.

"I've learned that there's more than one way to do everything," Aggen said. "There were some things I liked at other facilities and some things I didn't."

His facility includes a slaughter room, so producers can bring their animals to the facility alive.

After being slaughtered and bled out, the hides are removed and the animal is eviscerated.

Each animal goes through a chilling process.


"The body goes needs to go from about 101 degrees down to 40 degrees in the pre-chill room," Aggen said. From there it goes to the aging cooler, where it will hang for 10 to 14 days.

The facility has separate coolers for both wild game and domestic meat.

"Customers can give us directions on how they want the animal cut," Vanessa said.

The facility has a vacuum pack machine to keep the meat sealed and fresh.

They also cure bacon and ham, make hot sticks, hot dogs and sausages.

They also have a grinder, so excess meat can be ground into hamburger.

Their next goal is to get their meat counter up and running. They hope to sell fresh meat from local producers.

Aggen said the meat has to be state and federally inspected before they can sell to customers.


They hope to sell steaks, ground beef, pork chops, chicken and frozen fish, but they are limited by the amount of space they have.

"We're really looking forward to it," Aggen said. "So far we've gotten a great response from people in the area."

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