Jackson County’s Safari Meats is bringing venison to a butcher shop near you.
For almost two decades, Mark and Anita Cobb fought a battle with regulators to be able to sell their farm-raised venison within West Virginia’s borders. Now, more than a year after the Legislature passed a bill making such sales legal, their Ravenswood based Safari Meats LLC has processed and sold more than 700 pounds of deer meat to local markets, farm stands, and chefs around West Virginia.
Customers can find their fresh venison on shelves at the Wild Ramp in Huntington, Johnnie’s Fresh Meat Market at Charleston’s Capitol Market, and the Arthurdale Co-Op in Preston County, among other places. This fall, the Cobbs also hope to add a retail space on their Jackson County farm, where their herd now numbers 11 adult red-tailed deer, three fawns, and three elk. “We are constantly hearing, ‘Let me know when your store is open, let me know when I can buy it here,’” Anita says. “It’s a very big passion for both of us, and this is a dream come true.”
For years, the couple has raised deer mostly for hunting preserves, but they have long touted selling and eating West Virginia bred venison as a benefit for both consumers and local economies. “(Until now) any venison you found in the country, most of it was from New Zealand,” Anita says. “The country was spending about $460,000 to import it to sell it in restaurants.” Customers prefer the products sourced from Safari Meats because “they know everything about it,” she says. “There’s no drugs in it whatsoever. They know how it’s inspected.”
The market for their product is growing, too, as home cooks and professional chefs explore its culinary possibilities. Several West Virginia based restaurants buy their meat. “There’s nothing you can’t do with ground venison that you can do with ground beef,” says Anita, who whips up her own venison meatballs and chili. “But the venison is much fresher. It’s lower in calories and it’s lower in cholesterol.”
More information can be found on the Cobbs’ Facebook page. facebook.com/WVSafariMeats