MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — A meat retailer that set up in a Norton Shores parking lot over the weekend earned the ire of state regulators and some customers, who took their complaints to social media.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the agency which holds regulatory authority over such sales, told 13 ON YOUR SIDE inspectors shut Backyard Butchers down Tuesday morning after learning the retailer had been operating without a license over the holiday weekend.
The business spent the weekend posted near the Lakes Mall, selling meat.
Backyard Butchers operates in several other states and has received similar complaints from customers in Texas.
“They've launched an investigation into this business because of customer concerns,” Katie Grevious of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan said Tuesday.
The Better Business Bureau in Central Texas began investigating in February on account of the sheer volume of alleged problems customers have experienced with the retailer.
Backyard Butcher's profile showed the business had wracked-up 20 complaints, 18 of which were filed in the last 12 months, according to the BBB.
“We would also call that kind of a pattern of complaints, which is a huge red flag to us if a lot of customers are having the same issues,” Grevious noted.
Those complaints gave the business a resulting "F" rating with the BBB.
It said many issues had gone unresolved.
Though the company did previously address consumer concerns regarding its return policy, as of March, it had failed to articulate its response with regard to other complaints, Grevious said.
“We have spoken with the business owner,” MDARD Communications Director Jennifer Holton said Tuesday. “We have issued a stop sales order.”
Backyard Butchers applied for a license to operate in Norton Shores at the end of last month but never received it, according to information provided by MDARD.
Dozens of commenters also complained about the quality of the meat they had received, taking to Facebook with photos and first-hand accounts.
Hoping to fill their freezers with low-cost meat, instead, many said Backyard Butchers sold them "bendable ribeye" -- what were marketed as high-quality cuts yet turned out to be practically inedible.
“We're there to be making sure that the food is being sold safely, it is being done in in conjunction with our food laws and that food safety and public health is protected,” Holton related.
There are stringent inspection requirements that apply to meat sales and a legitimate business' license should always be prominently displayed.
“If you're unsure, you can always ask people like the Better Business Bureau what kind of information they have,” Grevious added. “That can give you… an idea whether this is a place you want to spend your money.”
Backyard Butchers responded via a prepared statement this week:
"Backyard Butchers believes first and foremost in providing an exceptional experience for all of our customers... We pride ourselves on making it easy for customers to contact us. Customers can reach us by Facebook, chat on our website, and email 7-days a week. We have U.S.-based customer representatives available 7 days a week with average response times of less than 30 minutes..."
Customers with concerns were asked to call (830) 507-2979 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for support.
It may face fines on the state level of up to $400 as a penalty for operating without a license, MDARD said.
If you're concerned about the quality of the meat you bought or other business practices, reach out to department officials at 1-800-292-3939 Monday through Friday.
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