An Unknown Rancher Once Said, “In Winter’s Chill or Summer’s Heat . . . Farmers and Ranchers Work so the World Can Eat.”
Farms and ranches are more than wide swaths of land used to raise crops and livestock. They are a family’s heritage and future. Jessie Morris and Chad Murdock understand the importance of both heritage and looking towards the future; it’s one of the main reasons they opened a butcher shop right here in their beloved Heber Valley.
Jessie and Chad have been best friends since middle school. The Morris family moved to Utah in the 1980s to raise their family, while the Murdock family was one of the first families to help settle the Heber valley. Jessie grew up helping out in his family’s antique store and shared, “I’ve always had kind of an entrepreneurial spirit to me. I always knew that I wanted to start my own business and . . . things happened in life, and the situation came about where everything sort of aligned right, and I figured it was time to make dreams become a reality. Chad spent his childhood years working on his family’s ranch, “I’ve always been around cows and livestock, and I’ve always been fascinated with meat cutting and processing.” Chad also has a love of history and attended university to become a history professor but after two years decided to take another path. He applied for and received an apprenticeship with Springville Meat Company — and fell in love with the craft. You can hear the joy in his voice as he expresses, “I worked my way up from the bottom and became one of their head butchers. I developed a really really strong passion for meat cutting and butchering and the whole trade in general.”
After five years of discussing plans to open a butcher business together, COVID-19 gave them the push they needed to launch Heber Valley Meats. Chad explained, “. . .
with the pandemic it became pretty apparent that the system that we have in the US is a little bit broken — it’s just a few big companies that control the entire market, and it’s coming down hard on the consumers and the producers. I feel like they’re both not getting treated fairly by these big corporations, and so I figured, well, I’m going to try and do my part and help. Help the producers and the consumers as much as I can and try and bring it back down to the local level. That’s been my dream all along. And so now it’s finally coming to fruition.”
Jessie explained further, “Initially, we are going to have mobile slaughter and custom processing. We’ll go to the ranchers and farmers, slaughter the animal, clean it, gut it, skin it, and then bring it back to our shop to do the processing and break down further. We also offer this same service to those with family farms that have personal animals that they want to eat over the year or sell half a beef to community members and things like that. Having somebody local makes it a lot more convenient instead of driving down to Utah or Salt Lake counties. It’ll be here in town, in Heber, and compared to retail pricing and grocery stores, buying half a carcass or a whole carcass saves you quite a bit on meat prices.”
Both Chad and Jessie say that farmers and consumers enjoy this process. “It’s a better system for the small farmers. We can show up right to their farm and butcher the animal right there. They don’t have to stress if they don’t have a trailer to lease or rent a trailer. It alleviates the stress of loading the animals up and then hauling them for several hours. Then they have to sit in the facility; it’s a lot, it’s a lot of stress on the animals, whereas we can show up to the farm and the pig’s still eating his breakfast, and you know he doesn’t know any the wiser. I think it’s a much better system, so we’re very excited to start offering that to the community.”
Although livestock is at the core of their business Heber Valley Meats also offers wild game processing, a storefront to purchase cut meats, opportunities for local ranchers, and eventually, they will provide local restaurants with home-grown meat.
“There is a lot of hunting and fishing in our valley and outdoorsmen that come to Heber . . . so we’ll be able to process wild game as well. We will also be offering retail sales so people can come in and buy a couple of steaks or hamburgers or small cuts of meat. As part of that, we’re going to be focusing on sourcing local meat from animals raised here in Heber Valley — ideally. And making sure that we have high-quality meat, and that helps the environment. We’re not shipping around meat; we’re not shipping around animals, so there are a lot fewer transportation costs, a lot less fuel, and other things used. It helps the economy. We’re keeping things local. We’re keeping money locally, we’re keeping jobs here locally, and so it helps quite a few different things in having local meat processing available instead of large scale meat processing.”
Chad shared that, “I’m in the process of working with a couple of local ranchers here in the Heber Valley and down in Utah County. I also raise some too, so we are going to try and be able to supply local beef to the community — which I think is awesome, which is kind of a dream come true for me. I think people are excited to be able to know that they’re eating something that was raised just right here, or at least in this very state versus being shipped in from across the country — we’re excited about that.” Chad is also excited about the opportunity to work with local restaurant owners. “We’ve had a few restaurants reach out to us, and for us to sell to the restaurants, we have to do a little bit more paperwork and inspections through the Utah State department of agriculture, so we’re working with the state right now. Our goal is to be able to start supplying restaurants by the end of this year — and that would be really awesome.”
Heber Valley Meats celebrated a successful Grand Opening on May 1st. Both Chad and Jessie shared their gratitude for the overwhelming community support they have received. Customers have been excited to purchase cuts of local beef, pork, and lamb and are raving about the domestic elk jerky! Of course, you can also purchase beef and buffalo jerky. Ranchers and farmers have expressed their delight at having everything from slaughter to cut and wrap available right in their back yard — literally.
For Chad and Jessie, their journey has been about more than just the culmination of hard work and perseverance to achieve their childhood dreams. It has been and always will be all about family, heritage, and the future. Chad expressed it best, “I’ve always had a very special connection with Heber and Strawberry Valley. My ancestors were such good community builders; not only were they building the community with the Mormon settlers, but they were also really great friends with the Indians. In the middle of the Black Hawk war, Joseph Stacey Murdock, my fourth or fifth great-grandpa, made a treaty with Chief Tabby-To-Kwanah. Afterward, they smoked a peace pipe, killed, I think, two or three cows, and had a barbecue right here on Main Street in Heber with the Mormons and the Indians. It’s an incredible story, and I’m super proud to come from that lineage. I have a really special place in my heart for Heber and the area, and of course ranching and beef, and just sharing, sharing the lifestyle with people.”
Chad Murdock and Jessie Morris are proud to honor their family’s heritage and follow in their ancestor’s footsteps. They both agree, “There was never a question, that if given the opportunity to open a butcher shop, that it would be anywhere else but here in the Heber Valley!”