While some butchers go upscale with foreign chocolates, wines and other packaged goods that appeal to urban markets, and other butchers close down because times have changed, Johnstown's Perfect's Meat Market is doing just fine.

While some butchers go upscale with foreign chocolates, wines and other packaged goods that appeal to urban markets, and other butchers close down because times have changed, Johnstown's Perfect's Meat Market is doing just fine.

Perfect's, founded at 80 E. Coshocton St. in 1947 by John and Hope Perfect after John got out of the army, has also had a retail shop since 1974. Son Bill joined the company in 1972, after he got out of the army himself.

Today, Bill runs the business with his daughter, Jenny Hollis, while John, 86, and Hope, 85, are retired.

Hollis said about a third of the business is retail, with the rest being custom meat processing.

"We do custom butcher processing of hogs, cattle and lamb," Hollis said. "We also do deer processing during the hunting season. That's big. We process quite a few, probably more than 1,000."

Bill and Jenny have four other employees, while Jenny's brother Zeb works for a meat company in Columbus.

Jenny said the business is changing, but Perfect's has products that are selling, including venison sausage and her dad's beef chipotle sausage, which won national recognition in 2004.

"I would say they (small butcher shops) are getting few and far between," Hollis said. "There have been stores around us that have closed.

"But in the last two or three years," she said, "we are finding that people are wanting the quality of the beef. They don't want anything injected. They're going back to the old school way of bringing it in, getting it processed, no growth hormones. On the processing side it is getting better and better."

On the retail side, Perfect's buys beef - to a butcher, a beef is the animal, not the processed meat - from two local farmers, buying only grain fed Black Angus. On the processing side, Perfect's will sell a half or a quarter to someone, accumulating orders until they have enough to buy a whole beef.

"It depends on the farmers," Hollis said. "Farmers will sell their customers the beef. Someone might buy a quarter or a half, and the farmer brings it to us and we slaughter it, butcher it and provide the service of processing it. We'll cut to their specifications, vac pack it - we vac pack everything, no butcher wrap - then freeze it so it's ready for pick-up."

Plant manager Ernie Mays said the two factors that control the taste of cut beef are the feeding and the aging. While hogs and lamb are slaughtered and packaged relatively quickly, beef can age for days, he said - the longer the better.

"It helps to age the cattle, it breaks down the molecules in the meat, makes it more tender, gives it a more desirable flavor," Mays said. "The longer they hang the better they are. It's called the dry aging process."

If a connoisseur truly wants high quality, Perfect's will cut the carcass into its prime elements-a loin or a rib-and age that component separately.

Retail salesman Larry Caudle has been cutting beef for 52 years, and he says health trends in the public mind have changed the way meat is fed and cut.

"Things have changed over the years," Caudle said. "When I first started cutting meat, they would take a rib, and the eye would have to be a certain size, it would have to have so much marbling in it. We had prime, choice, good, utility and standard, five grades of beef.

"Today the beef is fed different than it used to be," he said. "Doctors tell you not to eat fat, so they've actually cut down on the amount of marbling. Now, 99 percent of people will walk in here and buy that steak (with no marbling) because they don't want that fat. But the best steak in there is the one with the fat."