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New generation, same philosophy: From Carroll County farm to butcher's block to local tables

The first thing you notice when you walk into Bullock’s Country Meats is the smell, a subtle, pleasant aroma best described as the aromatic version of the savory taste now known as umami.

And then the sounds — the slight click of a knife on a cutting board, the whir of a band saw. Arrayed in a glass case along the back wall of the small, rectangular shop at 2020 Sykesville Road, Westminster, are rows of bright red beef cut into strips, roasts and cubes.

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“Here you get into your porterhouses, T-bones,” proprietor Mike Muller said, during a recent tour. “We let them dry age for two weeks, so that way your enzymes break down and you get your tender steak.”

Growing up with butchering in the family, Muller took an early interest in artisanal butchering. In May, 2018 he took over the business, located on Md. 32, just east of the intersection with Md. 97 in Westminster, from a previous owner, who had in turn taken it over from the Bullock family — and keeping the original name alive.

“This has been a butcher shop since 1937,” Muller said. “It’s always been with a focus on local farmers bringing us their meat.”

Muller gets it all in. Pork from Mount Airy and Thurmont, chicken and beef from around Carroll County and fish whenever it’s fresh enough to meet his standards.

“We talk to the people and they say, ‘we have this fresh and we have this fresh,’” Muller said. “Is it wild caught? Then yes, I will sell it. I don’t want farm raised.”

But the main glass case is unmistakably devoted to beef, with Muller’s staff replacing the thick, marbled cuts throughout the day as they sell them to customers.

It’s something longtime customer Dave Green, of Finksburg, really appreciates.

“I like being able to to pick and choose a little bit. They have a nice presentation,” he said, stopping in to pick up a chuck roast, though he’s not averse to buying some steaks. “Usually rib eye. Good rib eyes here.”

That’s a choice in cut that resonates with Muller as well, though he uses a different name.

“Mine is Delmonico,” Muller said. “Delmonico is your rib steak. If I sold it to you together and didn’t cut it into steaks, it’s prime rib. When I cut it like this it’s a rib steak. If I debone it, it’s a Delmonico.”

The store contains numerous rubs and spices to use with fresh meats, and as the weather warms, a center display will fill with local produce, according to Muller.

“We wanted to focus on the farm to table thing,” he said. “To get a friendship going with the farmers we use around here. You can call them up and when they see your name, ‘Hey Mike, how’s it going?’”

Farmers like 22-year-old Kim Snader.

Farm to table

A long driveway through rolling green hills opens onto a cluster of barns and a farm house, surrounded by more than 200 acres of pasture and field in Marston. It’s the heart of Snader Farms, and Kim Snader, from her perch in the cab of a large red pickup truck, is clearly the person in charge.

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“Me and my dad, Phil. But it’s mainly me,” she said. “I feed in the morning, and this time of year we’re spreading a lot and getting fields ready to plant. That’s just spring time. Then I will feed in the afternoon too.”

The actual founding is lost in family lore, Snader said. Her farm was at one point a dairy farm, but her grandfather sold the cows in the 1970s, and bought beef cattle, of which she now has 200 head and growing.

“We mainly have a breed called Herefords. A lot of people say Black Angus beef is the best! But it’s really how you feed them, and a lot goes into breeding them too,” she said. “We really care — it’s our passion, it’s what we love to do.”

And not just the work and the business of it — Snader is a fan of a well-cut steak as well, and often shares meals with Muller and his family. Her favorite cut?

“My favorite steak are Delmonicos, I think they’re the tenderist,” she said. “Filet mignons are good too, but I like Delmonicos.”

As the young inheritor of a deep family tradition, Snader said she feels a kinship with Muller, and hopes that together they can take her beef and his skills and connect with a younger generation of “foodie” consumers in Carroll County. People deeply interested in quality and locality in what they eat.

“Mike, he’s younger, I’m younger. I’m hoping people see that,” Snader said. “He has a vision for it and he is the type to go after it. He just wants to make it better and better.”

Back at the shop

Getting the youth interested in the process of bringing meat from field to table is something Scott Carr, of Westminster, has also thought about. A 40-year-veteran of Bullock’s Country Meats, but now retired, he had stopped by the shop to pick up some pork to make sausage.

“I wish they would get the schools into this more,” he said. “Back years ago, we used to have kids come in here. We’d take them up on the kill floor and they would watch the whole process. Then come down and see this, breaking it down.”

Carr started working at the shop in 1951, and, at 84, was around to see the structure built, and the many changes along the way.

“It’s a lot different. We had different cuts in that case back when we started,” he said. “There were only half a dozen cuts out of a side of beef in those days.”

His favorite cut?

“If I want steak I’ll get a Delmonico. It’s the tastiest,” he said, then added, “And chuck roast, as far as a pot roast. Chuck roast is the tastiest roast in the case.”

Whatever your steak — or chicken, or fish preference — Muller said there is something different about buying meat straight from the butcher shop.

“Here you get to come up and say, ‘I want that one back there,’ and then you get it in that old butcher paper wrap and we put a stamp on it,” he said. “So you go home and you know, this was cut today, and I just got it.”

Muller and Snader believe that’s the sort of thing other younger people will come to embrace, but either way, they’re not about to stop doing what they do

“I love it, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Snader said. “I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

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