One arrives at the Duma Meats and Farm Market from any direction after driving through bucolic Ohio farm country with barns and livestock littered in picture-perfect fields. Near Canton, the market has grown from a small butcher shop set up by great-grandpa Lawrence Duma, a Romanian immigrant in the 1920s, and is now shepherded by Dave Duma with several of the fourth generation working in various aspects of the business.
First, let’s get this out of the way…..you WANT to visit this market. You’ll be amazed at the locals pushing huge carts of grass-fed beef or free-range chickens, both frozen and fresh, toward checkout. The market is as large as a small grocery store with all things related to beef and pork and a smattering of Lake Michigan scallops and locally caught fish. There’s fresh cheeses and dairy products, an amazing deli assortment and a well-stocked selection of organic fruits and vegetables.
Chefs Angela, Veronica and Debbie choose scallops for dinner
We were honored to accompany three master chefs, Veronica Cili, Debbie Thomas and Angela Perkins, on a tour behind the scenes with the master himself leading the way from specialty room to specialty room. What is most evident is the love this family brings to feeding the region with high quality products. Someone on site knows the answer to any question you may have about a certain cut or how to prepare anything they sell or how to get deer jerky made during hunting season.
Dave cheerfully outfitted us with hairnets to maintain codes and add a little atmosphere to our visit before starting in the meat locker with about 100 sides of beef hanging ready to be butchered as needed to suit the customer demand. He joked that this was the best place for pics and allowed us to pose a bit before moving quickly through the butcher station where they cut up around 150 beef and 100 pigs a week all year round on a rotating schedule.
Chef Veronica mugging with Dave Duma in the meat locker
Then it was into the sausage room where he showed off the equipment to stuff various combinations of meats while explaining the fat content virtually required for good sausage as 20-30%. “It just isn’t a taste anyone would buy when we’ve tried to make it less fat content,” he says while encouraging us to move on through plastic panels into the next room.
There’s a five-by-five-by-five-foot drying oven specifically designed to allow rolling racks to glide in and out to make multiple types of jerky at a time. While they can’t purchase and resell deer meat by law, they are allowed and have a healthy business in butchering and making jerky for hunters. Each fall this part of the operation gets extra staff members to handle the regional load at the same time others are preparing holiday turkeys and hams.
Only a quick glimpse was possible of the jerky oven in operation
The smoke room contains more towering rolling racks with hundreds of smoked hams and turkeys all maintained at the perfect chilly temperature to be fresh for the customers. Dave paused for a moment in front of some large boxes stacked on pallets to explain the customer-driven choice to sell only 6-ounce hens “instead of 12-oz roosters like many.” He encourages strong farm-to-table quality among all his customers but has shifted away from warehouse chickens at restaurant requests. Judging by the full carts in the market, he’s found the right chickens.
Dave showing smoked hams in the smoke room
We moved through more rooms of bacon smoking, deli items and cold storage for all the dairy products they purchase for the store. As we make our way back through packaging machines to the customer service area it is clear the business is both booming and healthy. Staff are all busy and have a way of not getting in each other’s way as they handle hundreds of customer requests at a time along a fifty-foot counter area.
Dave turns us over to a senior staffer who shows us how he uses a basic band saw to cut tenderloin chops to size or thick pork chops sliced through quickly and efficiently. We were taking steaks home for the chefs to prepare later so he cuts up a tenderloin into eight 2-inch thick filet mignons and offers the choice of taking the trimmed fat for other purposes or an equivalent weight in ground chuck. The chefs opt for the chuck and add in bone sliced in four-inch wide pieces for bone marrow stock. The giant femur is adeptly cut through the same saw and packaged up in less than a minute.
Slicing beef bones for marrow
Then it’s back out to the market floor to review other options including local honey products, some Lake Michigan scallops for surf n turf, bacon cheddar and a handful of in-house recipe cards to share. The evening was lively with the fresh meats served simply together over a bed of fresh mushrooms and polenta.
A best-seller packaged and ready for the customer cases: stuffed pork chops