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Published March 27, 2009, 01:35 AM

Venison America more than ‘meats’ the eye

Nestled in a building set back off the road is the thriving business Venison America, and the only clue that it’s there is the colorful sign on the side of the building.

By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer

Nestled in a building set back off the road is the thriving business Venison America, and the only clue that it’s there is the colorful sign on the side of the building.

Founded in Galena, Ill., in the 1990s, the company is now headquartered in Hudson. Originally it processed and distributed fallow deer meat to restaurants. Today, the business offers meat from A (alligator) to Z (zebra), along with gourmet items such as white truffle oil and juniper berries.

Steve Loppnow, who owns the business with Kent Phillips, started with the company in 1996. Phillips, a Hudson resident, bought the company in 2000 and moved it to Hudson, operating it out of his house originally.

Today, 80 to 85 percent of their business comes from mid to upscale restaurants in the Twin Cities; the remainder from online and walk-in sales.

Venison America works both ends of the process – from the farm to the market.

“I work with farmers to develop specifications for them to get the best yield,” said Loppnow.

A short list of the exotic meats and game available include alligator, antelope, bison, black bear, caribou in season, chicken, guinea hens, venison – both red (United States) and fallow (New Zealand), elk, wild boar, turtle, ostrich, pheasant, yak, lion and zebra. All of them come from USDA-approved sources.

On Valentine’s Day and other holidays home gourmet cooks often look for something special to prepare, and kangaroo is one of the favorites. Less exotic favorites include the full line of Niman Ranch products, all natural pork and beef. Venison America also features Naturewell black angus, Canadian free-range veal, and a selection of sausage, including an apple gouda variety.

To complement the specialty meats and game is a selection of uncommon gourmet foods, from Palestinian olive oil to Hawaiian black sea salt.

Another new area will be deer processing, whole and boneless.

“A lot of people don’t know we are here,” said Loppnow. “We have a great selection, and most of the domestic meats are fresh.”

Walk-in customers will find a modest retail operation, but the company’s motto is, “Can’t find it? Call Us. It’s What we do best.” Any of their products available to restaurants are available to retail customers too.

Venison America is open for retail sales from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday at 494-B County A, just past Durobag. For more information, call (800) 310-2360 or visit www.venisonamerica.com.

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