FOR many years the McKee family name has been synonymous with the town of Maghera with their recently revamped butchers shop at the top of main street and award winning pies. For McKee’s this is not an overnight success story, but the result of many years of hard work and dedication – here’s how it all started.
The present owner’s grandfather, William H McKee, started the business in 1898 as a farmer/butcher. He travelled around farms butchering and curing pigs, his sons Willie and Ivan followed their father into the butchery trade, with another son Sam managing the family farm. As time progressed and eating habits changed so did the business, with cattle and sheep being slaughtered at the rear of the now present premises on Upper Main Street.
By the time George joined the family business in the 1970s cattle and sheep were no longer slaughtered on the premises and their focus continuous on producing quality meat sourced locally. George’s sister Iris joined the firm in the early 80s.
With housewives looking for convenience foods but of good quality, McKee’s started to manufacture pies etc, these proved so popular that they are now supplied to shops throughout Northern Ireland and have won many awards in many of the top food competitions.
George’s cattle agent Sam Carmichael, who is a well- known judge at many fat stock shows and suckled calf sales, sources cattle directly from farms and purchases quality lots at the market. Sam is very impressed with the kill out and fleshing ability of Blonde cattle,
As George added: “Because the Blondes are fine boned there is more meat and less waste which is more profitable for me, with beef cattle prices at an all time high I need as much saleable meat as possible.”
He continued: “I use other breeds as well to satisfy my varied range of customers, but with some traditional breeds there is quite a bit of fat on the carcase. This doesn’t suit all working women and it adds cost, trimming this off. I could use more and sell more Blonde beef, the Blonde breed has struck the balance between good quality lean meat and taste ability, the breed is very much under rated in every way.”
George who along with cattle agent Sam Carmichael regularly buy the champions and housewives choice at the Christmas fat stock shows at Allam’s, Ballymena, Omagh and Lisahally. George believes in buying quality animals for his customer not just at Christmas but all year round.
George, whose business has changed and adapted to suit the modern lifestyle of working women, has expanded into kitchen-ready products and prepared meals. He believes the Blonde breed has the right product to suit today’s market.
For more information on Blondes go to the website www.niblondecattleclub.com.