By Toni Riley
When E.G. “Bummy” Hampton sold his grain elevator and opened Hampton Meats in 1975, he was looking for a new way to connect with agri-business. He wanted to provide a slaughtering facility for local farmers to process and sell their farmed meat. His son, Ernie, believed in the idea, so he quit his job at Bass and Co. to help his father follow his new dream.
Thirty eight years later, Hampton Meats is still going strong, with the addition of a retail meat counter and wholesale markets.
Ernie smiles as he remembers his father’s well-told story about the beginning of Hampton Meats.
Bummy — a nickname derived from his sister and her children —was visiting Miami when he considered going into either country hams or meat processing. The latter idea won, and he built the meat packing plant on 1890 Pembroke Road, where it still stands today.
Customers range from restaurant and grocery store owners to barbecue enthusiasts and local families buying meat in bulk.
The selection includes Midwest beef and pork, locally processed beef and pork, smoked pork, poultry, mutton, lamb, deli meats, cheeses, produce and frozen seafood. A federal inspector is on site daily to approve every product.
Ernie said his decision to come back and join his dad wasn’t hard. He and his young family were living in Independence at the time, and he wanted his children to grow up knowing their grandparents.
Ernie’s son Justin, a husband and father of two, followed suit in 2012 when Bummy died at 94 years old.
Justin — also known as “Cousin Justin” at the store — sold a medical business he owned and became the third generation at Hampton Meats. He brought new marketing strategies to reach new customers while staying true to the reason the facility started.
Justin vowed to make a “good business be a great business.”
Hampton Meats stands by the philosophy that their growth is all about relationships, beginning with the farmers. Trust and strong rapport built the company because people knew Bummy and knew the meat was locally processed.
Both Ernie and Justin firmly articulate how much they want to provide a quality product. Having meat specially cut is very important. They believe that if they provide a good product at a competitive price customers will always be there.
When Justin returned, he said it came as no surprise that people were eating and cooking differently from 1975. Keeping that in mind, he looked toward the future to diversify their customers while not leaving their original base.
He developed a website that goes into detail about the Hampton Meats philosophy and products.
Justin also started staking claim in the “white table linen market,” referring to the market of upscale restaurants in Nashville that serve prime ribeyes and strip steaks.
Ernie proudly displayed two prime strip steaks that they purchase from Greater Omaha Packing Co., which has been in business since 1920 and is small in the world of beef packing.
The strip steak is the big side of a T-bone or Porterhouse; the smaller side is the tenderloin, more commonly known as the filet mignon. Prime indicates the amount of intramuscular fat, or marbling, and is one quality grade higher than the more notable choice. There is no doubt by looking at these steaks that Justin’s slogan “specializing in the art of meat” is very true.
Once sold, these cuts of meat could grace plates at the most elegant restaurants, a special gathering or be a marvelous gift. The Hamptons believe the quality of their product far surpasses the price they cost.
Hampton Meats also processes several private label meat products that are locally sourced and sold at farmers markets. Ground beef and bacon remain their biggest weekly sellers; therefore, they purchase hogs in nearby Bowling Green to provide customers with hams and bacon for curing and trimmings to make sausage. They also offer customers sources for grass-fed beef.
While Hampton Meats is looking for new markets and new ways for customers to have a quality meat product, the owners have no plans to move away from the base the company started with — area farm families and local customers. Justin said his dream for people to seek quality and buy a great cut of meat will continue to grow, and he’s certain that Hampton Meats will be the place to find that product.
Address: 1890 Pembroke Road, Hopkinsville
Retail Hours: Mon. – Fri. 6 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.