Wyoming Hunger Initiative is excited to introduce you to Star Valley Meat Block ("The Block") today! Star Valley Meat Block is one of the first processors to partner with Food from the Field and we couldn't be more excited about their enthusiasm and dedication for the heart and mission of this program to provide a Wyoming solution to hunger.
Star Valley Meat Block is owned by Tylee and Grant Williams, who purchased the business formerly known as Dana Cold Storage, Inc. (“Dana’s”) in 2017. While Dana's had been a Star Valley business for over 40 years, Tylee and Grant had a tremendous learning curve to manage in the meat processing business—notably, that it's really hard work—but work they proudly take on each week. With a staff of 14 and very little turnover, Tylee strives to create a work environment that people want to work in. "I try to make it fun for my employees—and we pay well," she explained with a laugh. She likes to think of nice things she can do for her staff, a large percentage of which is female. "Wyoming women are tough. They grow up learning skills like hunting, skinning game—and that makes them a great fit here." The Block also has a number of employees that return each busy season to work.
Tylee and Grant's leap of faith into the meat processing world was driven by their desire to stay in Wyoming and raise their children here. Tylee is part of the sixth generation of her family to live in the Star Valley, and leaving for work out of state was unthinkable. She and Grant wanted to stay close to family—their passion for family might explain why the environment they work so hard to create at The Block is close-knit and caring.
What does a week's work look like at The Block? "In August, we processed 67 pigs, 61 beef, 31 lambs, and eight goats. It's a little more during fair time," Tylee said. "A typical month might be a little less. In a normal week we might see 18 beef and 10-12 pigs." While capacity and a sheer limit of hours in a day to process are always challenges, Tylee finds there can be misconceptions about butchering that if not addressed, can become problematic. "When we first started in the business, some people thought we were stealing their meat. They didn't always understand how much bone weighs, or that the fat that is trimmed away reduces the overall weight. I realized I had to educate people about the process—more knowledge means more understanding. We haven't had that problem much at all in the last couple of years." Tylee wants people to take the time to understand where their food comes from, how it's processed, and why locally raised beef (and locally hunted game) is ideal.
The Williams family has always had a heart for helping their neighbors. Early on in their ownership, they worked with an organization called Hunters and Farmers Feeding the Hungry that helped raise money to cover the cost of donated meat within their community. They've given a significant amount of support and product to local veterans in Star Valley. "There are a lot of people in need, and I'm happy to help," says Tylee. It really is as simple as that. The details can be worked out if the heart to help is present.
When Star Valley Meat Block partnered with Wyoming Hunger Initiative to become a processor for Food from the Field, their only potential stumbling block was storage capacity. Because deer, elk, and moose must be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease after donation but before the meat can enter the food bank system, those carcasses must have a safe, refrigerated area to await test results. Because The Block is already humming along at nearly full capacity every month, where would they find the space for the waiting period? The details were worked out because of the generosity of local business Admiral Beverage Company in Worland, who agreed to donate the use of a "reefer" truck during hunting season—and the driver to get it there and back. This truck provides the capacity The Block needed to ensure the safety and care of the game hunters donate to Food from the Field. This perfect example of a Wyoming solution to a Wyoming challenge will have a significant impact on the ability to fight food insecurity in Star Valley.
Food from the Field isn't just a program on paper. Enthusiastic hunters across the state are excited to participate; just yesterday, this donation arrived at The Block ready to be tested, stored, processed, and soon—donated to Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies as a source of high-quality, local protein that will nourish children and families in our state.
For Tylee Williams, it's all in a day's work.
About Admiral Beverage
It is the mission of Admiral Beverage to be an effective partner in the communities that they serve by meeting the needs of business partners (owners, customers, employees and organization) by producing and distributing high quality products with superior service.
About Star Valley Meat Block
“THE BLOCK” Star Valley Meat Block & Cold Storage LLC is a family owned business serving as Western Wyoming’s complete custom meat market and premier wild game processing company. Their wild game and custom processing serves hunters from all over the world that arrive to hunt in the grandeur and splendor of the last best place. The Block is continuing the tradition of Dana Cold Storage, Inc. (“Dana’s”) business, which has been in meat processing business for over forty (40) years.
About Wyoming Hunger Initiative's Food from the Field
Food from the Field is a game meat donation program to help feed our Wyoming neighbors in need. A partnership with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies, and meat processors throughout the state allow streamlined game meat donation to food pantries across Wyoming.