The Keller’s Story
Keller’s Farm Stores, a local favorite, flourishes as Albuquerque’s premier supplier of the finest quality beef, pork, lamb, exotic meats, fancy poultry, fresh seafood, handmade cold cuts, sausages, and gourmet foods. The Keller’s have grown their market niche by doing things differently. “Our farm fresh meats and poultry are grown for flavor, tenderness and nutritional quality,” says Margie Keller Perko, one of four Keller siblings who own and operate the company. “The number one reason customers come into our shops is because they know we have the finest meats and gourmet food items available.”
Keller’s Farm Stores locations include a shop on Eubank at Candelaria, and a shop on Coors Road at Montano. Customers can choose from a staggering variety of fresh meat, poultry, and seafood cuts artfully displayed in full service cases, as opposed to the vacuum packaged meats offered in the self serve cases of most supermarkets. The walk-in-cooler is typically filled with grain fed sides of beef aging to perfection. “Our older customers tell us this is the way meat tasted to them when they were children: good, old-fashioned flavor and tenderness,” explains Margie. Delicious deli items are prepared daily, including hot barbecued ribs and chicken, fresh salads, sandwiches and party trays.
Keller’s stocks a huge selection of domestic and imported cheeses as well as gourmet and natural groceries from around the world. Fresh pastries, baked goods and organic produce are enticingly displayed. A full time nutritional staff offers the most current health information and assists customers with natural vitamins, herbs and cosmetics.
The Keller’s story begins in, of all places, a bakery, where Lawrence, working with his father, met his soon-to-be wife, Helen. The Keller’s,dreaming of fresh air and sunshine in the great outdoors, decided to buy a farm and strike out on their own. In 1946, Lawrence and his family began farming. Before long, a line of cars was a consistent sight at the Keller’s farm. People would drive out to the farm to buy fresh meats. The first retail shops were opened in the ’60s. The Keller’s retail shops and meat processing plant served as the test kitchens as Lawrence worked, making new and previously unimaginable products for upscale restaurants and retail sales. Lawrence became a legend in the turkey industry, famous as a leader and innovator. He received numerous awards for his products. The four Keller siblings have always worked side by side in the business with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They became the heart and soul of the business when their parents passed away, Lawrence in 1980 and Helen in 2000. Chances are, you’ll end up dealing with a Keller family member when you’re shopping. All eight grandchildren have been active in the family business, with their parents. Customer service is as much a priority today as it was for their parents in 1946. (image left – Helen and Lawrence Keller, 1946, image right – Lawrence Keller, 1960)
Variety is the spice of shopping at Keller’s. The seasoned and marinated meats offered at Keller’s can go straight to the grill or stove. “Our goal is to make meal preparation easier and faster,” relates Nancy Keller Jackson, who has a masters degree in Poultry Science. Hard to find meat items are a “cinch” at Keller’s. For those not satisfied with the abundant selection of exotic meats, including buffalo, quail, pheasant, and emu, Keller’s will seek out everything from rattlesnake and alligator to bear.
During the holiday season, a hungry crowd lines up before the store is even open. The huge smokehouse, loaded with delicious meats, runs around the clock. The store smells like hickory heaven. In the three days before Thanksgiving, this family will sell 10,000 turkeys. During Christmas week, more than 10 tons of prime rib roasts are cut to order. Hundreds of lambs are cut to fill Passover and Easter orders. Complete dinners are made by the hundreds, featuring smoked or roasted turkey or ham and side dishes including such family favorites as sweet potato casserole and fresh strawberry-cranberry salad. Keller’s staff prepare beautifully decorated gift baskets featuring Keller’s smoked meats, imported teas, exotic nuts, jams, crackers and cheese. Hundreds of local business people order gift certificates or gift wrapped boxes of choice, tender, aged steaks for their employees, clients and business associates.
In an era of mega-supermarkets and blockbuster packing houses mass producing chemically-pumped meats, Keller’s has done the opposite. “We never add chemicals, MSG, colorings, preservatives or any other additives to any of our meats, cold cuts, sausages or bacon,” explains Nancy. The entire line of deli meats are naturally low in sodium. The Keller family makes all of their cold cuts and sausage by hand in their shop. “Our sausage and cold cuts are great, really different,” says Michael Keller, who heads the company’s production, “There simply isn’t anything comparable. We start by using our own choice beef, prime turkey and pork.” Keller’s hams, bacon, cold cuts and sausages are Old World recipes. Only spices and herbs are used for flavorings. The meat is hand-stuffed into natural casings and slowly smoked over a hickory fire. “It isn’t necessary to disguise poor flavor with a lot of chemical additives when you start with really good ingredients,” explains Nancy. Kellers’ customers have repeatedly voted the Best of Albuquerque Bologna Award and Best of Albuquerque Meat Market Award to the Keller’s shops. The bottom line is a wholesome, natural product, a cut above the competition. The taste is phenomenal and the product is pure. “It’s the food you really feel good about feeding to your family,” says Nancy. (Helen Keller with her children and grandchildren, 1998)
Modern agriculture is a cost-driven industry, and food prices are set with little consideration to quality. There is universal pressure on ranchers and farmers to cut production costs. The Keller family’s approach goes against the grain. They do not sacrifice quality to lower production costs. “The meats we market come from animals that are fed a carefully balanced, very high quality diet of corn, alfalfa and other grains,” explains Michael, “We do this for two reasons. First, the flavor of the meat you eat is determined by the animal’s diet. Cattle that are fed rich grain, corn and alfalfa turn out meat with exceptional flavor and tenderness you just don’t find in the supermarket. Our decision has been to stay with the same quality feed formula day in and day out. Our feed costs are higher, but the result is meat with consistently great taste. Secondly, the meat from animals fed a higher quality, nutritious, well balanced diet supplies our own bodies with greater nutrition.” (Michael Keller, Margie Keller Perko, and Rebecca Perko)
Keller’s animals are raised in a humane manner, with plenty of fresh air and exercise. No dehorning or castration is performed. The Kellers feature USDA choice and prime grades of beef. “Choice and prime grades of beef are the most tender and flavorful,” relates Paul Keller, who operates the Keller’s farm and transporting. The industry standard is USDA Select. The extra time and expense invested in feeding our meats to prime and choice results in exceptional flavor and tenderness.
(Paul Keller is responsible for family farming and transporting) Keller’s animals are processed in clean, USDA-inspected plants. There is an inspector on duty at all times. The Keller family’s secret ingredient for success is customer service. “Your family deserves the best” is the slogan that permeates the company. It’s their customers who matter most. The Keller family is mindful of the fact that customers want a fresher, higher quality, more nutritious product than they can get in any other store, and they want valuable customer service and interaction. Providing customer-oriented service is largely a matter of being mindful of the customer in performing every task. “Our customers are wonderful, really nice people,” relates Margie, “We treat our customers as guests. We help them make their selections. If they are in a hurry, we take their order by phone and have it waiting when they come in. At Christmas, we smoke and gift wrap our natural hams or turkeys for everyone on their shopping list. We prepare complete dinners with all the trimmings and cater special occasions. Our goal is to make shopping fun with a friendly, helpful staff.”
The Keller’s selection of fresh products gives new meaning to the “farm to table” production chain, making it second to none in quality assurance. The family has developed a respected reputation for their commitment to providing outstanding customer service and the best in specialty meats and gourmet foods. The Kellers plan to stick to their slogan, “Your family deserves the best!”