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The Fish Guys Inc. expects high demand for meat products in the future and is opening a new processing plant to better customize cuts for its restaurant and retail customers.

The St. Louis Park-based wholesale distributor, which built a reputation in the Twin Cities’ food scene for its quality seafood, entered the land-based protein market last year and sells large chunks of beef, chicken and pork.

But not every restaurant has butchering capabilities on site that can turn a 60-pound primal cut into individual steaks, limiting which customers could order meat from the Fish Guys.

That is why the distributor in May bought a 16,000-square-foot meat-processing plant, at 1595 57th St. in Northfield, from Valley Natural Meats for $710,000, according to public records.

Mike Higgins, owner and chief executive of the Fish Guys, said the company has invested more than $1 million in additional funds to renovate and add equipment to the facility, which will be USDA-inspected, so it can make customized orders.

“Frankly, until this facility is up and running in a couple of weeks, we were box in, box out. We couldn’t open that box and cut it down into a finished steak,” said Higgins. “Not just will we be able to get them the exact cuts but the exact quantity.”

Customers have long bemoaned the lack of quality meats, or right cuts, available from wholesale distributors, Higgins said.

Some restaurants try and do it themselves, but many of them don’t have the space or skills required.

“It takes a very high level of skill to maximize that large piece of meat,” Higgins said. “If that person doesn’t have that skill set for an exact cut, they could be leaving tangible dollars on the cutting board.”

The Fish Guys launched its land-based protein Market House Meats in the spring of 2018.

“We have customers that have been asking for this service since day one,” Tim McKee, Fish Guys’ senior vice president of business development and local James Beard Award-winning chef, said in a statement.

This new plant “will allow us to accommodate a chef who needs 150 dry-aged, 24-ounce, bone-in rib-eyes on short notice.”

The project will add 15 to 20 new positions between its Northfield and St. Louis Park locations. St. Louis Park’s 40,000-square-foot facility will remain the company’s distribution center.

Northfield is expected to churn out cuts of meat by the middle of next month.

Higgins believes the company’s meat sales, which currently account for about 25% of the overall business, will soon surpass seafood.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in a three-year period, we are selling three times the amount of meat that we currently sell on seafood,” he said.

The Fish Guys’ annual revenue is between $50 million and $100 million, he said.

Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767