While some stores are reeling from the recent news coverage of "pink slime," the notorious beef filler product, Brian Cohen, owner of Overland Meat Co., has had to get a bigger grinder to fill the demand for his fresh ground beef.
"We've outgrown our little grinder," Cohen said while working in his shop Wednesday. "We're catching on. The main reason is people can taste the difference."
Ground beef at Overland goes on sale on Mondays for $2.99 per pound. The shop has sold out for the past four weeks.
Along with other daily specials and new distribution through several local businesses, Overland is selling more meat and seafood than ever. After a few tough years, the future for the quaint little meat store, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, is looking bright.
"I'm so excited about what's happening in my little business," Cohen said. "We're growing."
Cohen's father, Mark Cohen, started Overland in 1987. Seven years ago, after 15 years working as a butcher at a large grocery store chain, Brian Cohen bought the place from his parents.
"I would not have done this if my father had not done such a great job with the foundation of this business," Cohen said.
After finding a way to manage Overland's debt and working through a few slow years, Cohen has developed an approach to his product that a whole new market can appreciate.
"We took over running in the same footsteps, and then within a year I started making my own path, because I knew there was another better way," Cohen said. "That was all free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free (meat)."
Now, Overland offers a huge range of gourmet meats, including ribeye steaks, tri-tip (fresh or cooked), fresh ground beef, fresh ground buffalo, homemade sausages, bacon and poultry. The store also has a seafood section that's stocked twice a week with fresh fish over-nighted from Hawaii.
On top of the fresh meats and seafood, employee Hilario Vallejo, a former meat cutter at the now-closed Barkley Meat Co., prepares dishes like pork chile verde and fresh shrimp ceviche using Overland meats. After six years at Overland, he can guess why customers keep coming back.
"A lot of people are starting to know the difference between fresh and frozen," Vallejo said.
Due to news reports in March that most of the ground beef sold in the U.S. contained up to 15 percent of the lean finely textured beef also known as "pink slime," the demand for beef in the U.S. began to fall. Right around that same time, Overland began announcing they had no "pink slime" in their beef products.
Because of that, the freshness and a variety of choices, Overland attracts people who are health-conscious and not satisfied with meats found at big grocery stores, Cohen said.
"The worse they get at the grocery stores, the better we look," he said.
Cohen's high standard for quality has also attracted numerous businesses that are proud to use Overland meats in their products.
"It's worked out pretty well so far," said John Gailea, owner of Tahoe Keys Deli, who gets some of his restaurant's specials from Overland.
Tahoe Keys Cafe, Vinny's Pizzeria & Pasta House, Straw Hat Pizza inside Harvey's Casino and several other businesses use Overland products.
"First and foremost, it's about the product. It's the best you can get in town," said Joe Soave, who owns Tahoe Keys Cafe. "I think what (Cohen) has done to create the Overland name, the Overland brand, has value to me."
Soave uses Overland chorizo in breakfast burritos and Overland tuna in the cafe's ahi nori wrap during busy seasons. He even had Overland meats at his wedding.
"People to this day still talk about how good that food was," Soave said.
Overland Meat Co. is located at 2227 Lake Tahoe Blvd., Suite C, in South Lake Tahoe. For more information, visit www.overlandmeatco.com.