There are many ways one can buy great beef – from large warehouse clubs to a neighborhood grocery store, directly from a rancher or from a local butcher. We visited with Bret Pont of Hobe Meats in Phoenix to gain perspective about what it’s like to be a smaller butcher shop and meat market, and what services are offered to customers.
Arizona Beef Council: Hi Bret! How long have you been in the meat business?
Bret Pont: I’ve been in the meat business for about 30 years. I started in Oregon working for Swift and Mapelli Brothers in shipping and receiving then worked my way up to the meat cutting room which was a prestigious position. That’s where I got my “ears wet.” 25 years ago, I moved to Arizona and started working for a small butcher shop and found it intriguing and have stuck with it ever since. I love this business because I get to meet people one-on-one. We get to shake hands and get to know each other by name. I enjoy developing friendly customer relationships.
ABC: Where does the name “Hobe” come from?
BP: The Hobe brand originated with Dave Hobe when he started this business 1962. I acquired it 8 years ago. Dave ran it with his brothers until the late 1970s.
ABC: What is the most common question you receive about beef?
BP: We often receive questions about the beef quality grades and whether it is grass-finished or grain-finished. We are glad to answer our customer’s questions. We carry primarily Prime beef and upper two-thirds Choice graded beef. Most of our beef is wet-aged a minimum of 30 days to increase tenderness. Customers can have the same Prime beef experience at home as one would at a nice steakhouse.
ABC: Do the popular cuts vary year-round?
BP: Steaks for grilling are popular year-round. In Arizona, it doesn’t matter if it is December or July, we still sell Ribeyes, Tenderloins, New Yorks. They are popular all year long. We do see an increase in interested in roasts – Chuck Roasts, Pot Roasts, Short Ribs – in the winter when people want to make stews, roasts, and chilis.
ABC: Do you offer custom cut options to customers?
BP: We do offer custom options and that is one of the things that makes us unique. We have the ability to cut a 4-inch thick Porterhouse Steak or a half-inch thick New York Steak. Whatever size one wants, we can custom cut to the customer’s specifications with just a little bit of notice. We are proud to offer custom options. That service can’t be found everywhere.
ABC: What is the most unique meat you carry (in addition to beef)?
BP: We have several unique offerings that range from wild boar bacon to alligator. Kangaroo is surprisingly popular – it’s a dark meat like venison – and comes in loin steaks and as ground kangaroo meat. We also carry frog legs, pheasant, quail, elk, and bison. We have Arizona’s largest selection of wild game meat.
ABC: What unique perspective do you offer to your customers?
BP: I think we offer customer service. We get to know their names and help them decide which cut is best for their needs. We offer the expertise to explain the cuts of beef and different flavors. People have lots of questions and we offer the experience and knowledge of beef production and of cooking recommendations. We keep materials on hand from the Arizona Beef Council including cut chart handouts and recipe brochures that people can take home to learn more about beef.
ABC: What is your favorite beef cut to recommend?
BP: I like the Ribeye. Some people say it is too rich for them but it is my go-to steak. I like it seasoned with salt and pepper and a little butter on top.
ABC: What does your business bring to the beef community?
BP: From start to finish, we help customers select the cut they want, offer recipe suggestions that we’ve tried, that are in the handouts, and that have great reviews so that they can have a satisfactory beef-eating experience.