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Rowell’s Butcher Shop

The local hunter’s choice for a half century

Ernest ‘Pop Pop’ Rowell began butchering friends’ deer out of his garage in 1969. That first year he processed seven deer. These days, his step-grandson Darrin Weimert runs the business and averages 1,250 deer a year.
      Celebrating 50 years of business, Rowell’s Butcher Shop in Prince Frederick is still a family-run business. Started by Ernest Rowell, now 90, it was handed over to his son-in-law, Ron Weimert who sold the business to his son, Darrin Weimert, 50, Rowell’s step-grandson. Weimert now runs the business full-time under the watchful eye of Pop Pop.
     While working as a meat cutter for A&P grocery store in the late 1950s, Rowell helped a few of his friends during hunting season by butchering their deer. He figured he could parlay that skill into a part-time job. In 1969, he converted his two-car garage into a meat-processing building where he butchered seven deer his first year. The business now processes an average of 1,250 deer each year.
     No animals are killed on site at a butcher shop; that’s the difference between a slaughterhouse and a butcher. The business is USDA-inspected, and Rowell’s license is registered as Custom Exempt, meaning what the customer brings in goes back to the customer. The shop does not sell meat; it charges only for the labor of butchering the animal. Animals must be field dressed before they are accepted at the shop.
     The average cost to butcher a deer is $95. If some of the meat is turned into sausage or bologna, there is an additional charge for added spices, beef fat and labor. No fowl is processed at the shop. Under USDA rules, four-legged game must be processed in a separate area from birds, and, according to Rowell, there is not a big demand for fowl processing.
      Over the years, the shop has expanded. There is now a cold storage area where hunters can drop off their game 24 hours a day after filling out a card with their information and how they would like it butchered, along with a DNR confirmation number to prove the animal wasn’t poached.
     Also added is a large walk-in freezer where the vacuum-packed meat is boxed and stored until picked up. In addition, there is a smokehouse where hams and sausages are transformed into hickory-smoked ambrosia. A separate shed was once used to make jerky, but, according to Weimert, it is very labor-intensive, and he can’t find the labor, so the jerky has been discontinued.
      At the very end of the main building is a salt room. Once the deer is skinned, the hide is placed on the concrete floor and salt is shoveled onto its underside for a thorough covering. It’s then stacked onto other hides, skin side down, and left to cure.
     “Once huntin’ season is over, a fellow from Pennsylvania comes down and inspects each hide and offers so much money for each one, depending on its condition,” Rowell tells me. “He buys hides from processers all over Maryland. He brings them up to Philadelphia where they’re shipped to China.” Once in China, the hides are made into leather gloves, which are in turn, shipped back to the U.S. for sale. The gloves’ tag says it’s leather, but it doesn’t have to say from what.
     As for the leftovers, the bones, are taken to various farms where they are used as compost. Nothing goes to waste.
     So if your arrow or shell hits its mark this season, and you’re unsure of what to do next, bring your prize to Rowell’s Butcher Shop, and they’ll take it from there.
Archery deer hunting season is underway. Firearms season begins Nov. 30 and continues to Dec. 14.