Innovation, quality and service earns long-time partnership with Bardine’s

Tucked in the Allegheny Mountain range of southwestern Pennsylvania just east of Pittsburgh is a meat processor and retailer that customers claim is the “best butcher shop in the U.S.A.” Bardine’s Country Smokehouse is a family-owned business with nearly two-dozen employees including Gary Bardine, a fourth-generation butcher and owner.

 “We’ve always been known for our award-winning ham and bacon-based products,” Gary says. “Smoked meats are our specialty, but here in western Pennsylvania, it’s our hot sausage and kielbasa that put us on the map.”

The Bardine family has been in the meat business in the town of Crabtree since Gary’s grandfather immigrated from Italy during the early days of the Great Depression.

 “He had a small place where he peddled chicken, eggs and calves. When my dad turned 18, he built a USDA slaughterhouse on site and sold wholesale meats. My grandfather had a farm on the property so I took over a section of the machine shed and began processing. From there, we added a walk-in cooler and built out a meat cutting room. It ended up becoming a whole new plant – minus the slaughter house today – for retail and processing, curing, smoking and injecting meat.”

As a young man, Gary learned the meat processing trade by connecting with influential resources, often talking to meat science professionals, and attending trade shows and conventions. In the late 1990s, he enrolled in a short course at the University of Wisconsin’s Meat Processing School where he met and befriended a teacher and fellow meat processor named Rick McLimans. Years later, Rick would join Excalibur Seasoning and take over the Bardine’s sales account.

“The relationship with Rick and our business growth has us buying more product from Excalibur Seasoning every year, it seems. Their team is innovative and always coming out with new flavor snack sticks and marinades. We don’t want to simply be a chain store selling meat. We want a variety of products – snack sticks, jerky and sausages – to help us stand out.”

Some of Gary’s favorite Excalibur products include the bratwurst and summer sausage mixes. Known for his many original recipes, Gary combines his grandfather’s blend with a private mix made by Excalibur and calls it “Granpap’s Old Fashioned Sausage.” And, of course, there’s also Bardine’s famous bacon.

“Our bacon won Grand Champion in the heavyweight category at this year’s American Cured Meat Championships. It’s a scratch recipe but we included Excalibur’s Bacon Booster. I highly recommend it for the extra oomph it provides. We use it in bacon and jerky. Everything.”

Gary says over the years Excalibur Seasoning’s legendary quality and excellent service has helped establish a solid partnership with his family company. It’s exactly how he does business with his customers.

“A speaker at a seminar once said being successful in business comes down to three things: be likeable, likeable and likeable. I like Scott Werner, Rick McLimans, Bob Condon, Bob Andorfer – all of the guys I see in the booth at PAMP and AAMP. They are always good to me. I was at a meat show in Kentucky by myself one time and the sales guys went out of their way to tell me they were going to dinner. You’re alone, so come and join us, they said. I would have bought product from them anyway.”