Finding a niche

For a long time, Carlstadt, N.J.-based Schweid & Sons has been a large ground beef producer for food service customers, including Five Guys Burgers and Fries. In recent years, the company has gotten into retail, supplying ground beef to groceries and supermarkets for consumers.

Stacks of ground beef patties on a production line
Schweid & Sons is a ground beef producer for food service customers such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The company's products are also sold at retail.

“We saw a void in the market, specifically retail,” said Jamie Schweid, who with his father David and brother Brad own the four-generation ground beef purveyor, which now sells to 500 supermarkets as well as thousands of restaurants.

The business began in the late 1800s, with Harry Schweid selling meats to butchers and restaurants on New York City’s Lower East Side. His son Sam and grandson David continued the business, switching to strictly ground beef purveying.

“Ground beef blending means using whole muscle cuts and mixing other cuts with it,” Mr. Schweid said. “Blending takes place because there’s a big demand for it today in the market, so our company has grown by doing this.”

The huge demand for it in the ground beef market means a lot, because 50% of all meat sold in the U.S. today is ground beef.

“Chefs in restaurants are looking to differentiate, make the products their own, especially on the burger side of things. We’re not just selling plain, simple hamburgers anymore,” he said.

Man Cave burger patties
Ground beef blending can mean adding whole muscle cuts to ground product or adding extra ingredients such as onions, peppers, cheese and bacon.

Up to 10 or 15 years ago, nobody made anything different. “Blending is also due to the economic direction that we’ve been experiencing for a number of years – fewer steaks." Mr. Schweid said. "So if a restaurant can’t get $25 for a steak, maybe it can get $12 to $15 for a burger, provided it’s ‘premium."

He said blending is not really due to changes in technology, because “we’ve been grinding the same way for 40 years.” What has changed is the forming end of the business. “Patties were typically dense. Now the burger machine rolls and creates the no-pressure patty,” he said. “We call them ‘airy.’ Patties are not as dense as they used to be.”