Blondies Butcher Shop hopes to build a legacy while honoring its past
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Blondies Butcher Shop hopes to build a legacy while honoring its past

Aug 08, 2023

WANAMINGO, Minn. — Hot pink walls and pin-up dolls are not the usual decor for a meat locker, but Lindsey Loken wanted to incorporate her own taste into the meat industry.

Loken first decided to take over the meat locker in her hometown after she suffered from burnout in her previous job. She was working as a paramedic in Wyoming and Montana for about 10 years.

"I was sick of the drug abuse in the system and the users so I called home to my dad, like any kid does to complain," Loken said. "And he's like, 'Well, the meat lockers for sale across the street.'"

Loken's dad and sister run a welding shop behind the firehouse, kitty corner from what is now Blondies Butcher Shop. The previous owner had passed away and the wife didn't want to see it shut down. So after a year of running it herself, she sold the place to Loken who made the shop her own. Even the name Blondies Butcher Shop is new with her and comes from the farmers in the area.

"Blondies Butcher Shop was not something I can claim for coming up with," Loken said. The name comes from farmers talking over coffee, and when asked what he's been doing, Loken said one replies, "'Oh, I took the steer to Blondies.' And then it evolved."


People began writing checks out to Blondies Butcher Shop and eventually she changed the name.

The name wasn't the only change. Loken loves to decorate and began making changes like painting the walls hot pink and incorporating pin-up dolls and other feminine decor into the shop.

"I was worried when I painted the place pink if I made the previous owners turn over in their graves, but their families have been super supportive," Loken said. "I'm grateful for that because legacy is so important, especially to Midwesterners and what they leave behind."

Some things are still the same though. The shop itself has been around since 1937 and the original butcher block is now the sales counter in the front of the store.

Loken had zero training or experience in butchering animals prior to owning it, but she was determined to learn the craft.

"At that point in time, there were no schools anymore," Loken said. "The University of Mississippi offered me to come down. They were teaching a summer meat cutting course and the professor was great. I had just cold-called the school because they were one of the few that offered, like, extension-type classes for non-students."

She also ended up learning a lot from other butcher shops in Minnesota. Loken said the industry supported her and took her under its wing. She would float from one shop to another, learning the different cuts of meat and any other basic information she would need to know.

After spending weeks just cutting meat, Loken began to get her shop up and running.


"As far as our reach, I wouldn't say we're not a locally supported butcher shop as much anymore as it used to be since 2020," Loken said. "That demographic opened up wide."

With clients from the Twin Cities and across the state borders, Loken and her staff started processing around 60 hogs a week during the pandemic. Local farmers' hogs were being turned away from larger processing plants, so Loken decided to help process and sell as many as she could. She and a local farmer ended up posting hogs for sale on Facebook, causing the post to go viral and selling around 700 hogs overnight.

"The hog farmers ended up on PBS," Loken said. "He was on Fox News. We ended up having National Geographic come here and document, but it hasn't come out yet."

Loken has since been very active in the butchering industry. She began talking and teaching about the meat industry. She also sat in with a U.S. meats trade export group while they were talking about trading with Japan. And she spends a lot of time advocating for bills at the capital and lobbying on behalf of the protein industry.

"It's so funny because I know I do get asked a lot at conventions, 'There's so many of you little meat lockers all next to each other, how do you survive?’" Loken said. "But we have such a diverse agriculture base in this area. If there's not chickens, there's turkey barns, there's hogs, there's dairy, there's beef, so we don't run out of stuff."

Blondies Butcher Shop also prides itself on the products they sell.

"We know we're giving a really great product back to our customers and that we work with producers that raise really great cattle," Loken said. "I can turn around and put our touch on it, which is a very minimal touch compared to what the people who raise the cattle are putting into it."

Currently, she and her staff are working on getting a website up and running where they plan to share different meat cutting and cooking videos to help educate people about their meat. Education is really important to Loken, whether it's educating the consumer about where the meat came from or teaching students how to cut meat.


"I enjoy teaching people about meat in the industry and barbecue cooking and what makes a good cut of meat versus maybe not so much," Loken said. "Why do I grind something versus not grind something? How to age something to make it more tender and educating not just the consumer."

Loken has taught in public schools following a $300,000 grant from the state of Minnesota for a program in public schools to implement meat cutting into their school system.

The high schoolers in town love to hang out around the shop. During the pandemic, the meat locker was one of the only places open and the kids would stop by and beg Loken for something to do. She eventually bought a doughnut machine for them to mess around with and make a few extra dollars by selling them outside the shop.

Now there's a food truck owned by Loken that is mostly used to sell doughnuts. She uses it for catering different events like graduation parties and weddings.

The one thing Loken wants to stress about her business is that 100% of the animals they process are recyclable.

"I think the other conversation that we have a lot too with is byproducts," Loken said. "We're 100% recyclable. There's nothing on these animals that is wasted."

Loken sends the hide up to the Twin Cities to make into leather. The organs go to Green Bay and are implemented into dog food. The blood is boiled down into a blood protein and used to feed other species of farm animals. The beef fat is being used to create eco-friendly jet fuel. Basically, every part of an animal is being used.

Loken is focused on improving the meat industry, educating consumers on where their meat comes from and teaching new people who might be interested in learning how to cut and cook meat. She hopes to continue expanding the meat industry in more ways than one.


Blondies Butcher Shop

95 Main St., Wanamingo, MN 55983