The average American consumes 17.9 pounds of bacon each year, but Jim Reis of Adel probably exceeds that number. In 2011, his love of bacon led him to found the Des Moines Bacon and Meat Company.
“I got tired of buying bad bacon, and thought I could do better,” Reis says. “After some reading, sourcing some pork bellies, experimenting with rubs, then smoking the meat in my backyard, I produced my own bacon.”
Reis shared his bacon creations with family and friends, who gobbled it up and asked for more. “I decided to try selling bacon at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market. To do that, you have to work with a processor who has a state or federal license,” he says. “The owners of the State Center Locker were willing to work with me.”
To make his bacon, employees at the State Center Locker start with a fresh pork side or belly from conventionally raised Iowa pigs. Mixtures of salt and seasonings Reis developed are rubbed into the meat. Then the pork is placed in a cooler and cured for five to six days.
“This is dry cured bacon,” Reis says. “We never add water.” Next the pork is smoked, hand cut and packaged to his specifications.
Once Reis started selling at the Des Moines farmers’ market, he got repeat customers and interest from local outlets. Soon the Gateway Market in Des Moines, plus central Iowa Fareway and Hy-Vee stores, were interested in his bacon.
Jim graduated from Perry High School, before earning a bachelor’s degree in business at Iowa State University. He farms with his uncle, Scott Seeley. They don’t have livestock, which makes it possible
for Reis to farm and also manage his growing business.
As interest in his bacon increased, Reis expanded the Des Moines Bacon and Meat Company line of fresh meat products. While some items vary with the seasons, the company offers ribs, sausage, brats, pork chops, hot dogs, bone-in and boneless hams, and specialty holiday hams and turkeys.
“The ribs are super popular,” Reis says. “We do a really good business with those, especially in the summer. These are fresh, all natural, never frozen. Customers have them within 48 hours—straight off the hog.”
The specialty holiday hams and turkeys are available Thanksgiving through Easter. Reis sources turkeys from a family-owned farm in Minnesota. “These are free-range birds, free of antibiotics and nitrates, a very high-quality product,” he says.
In the beginning, it was just Reis and his wife Rachel, who is a partner in the business. Jim would take orders on Mondays, then make deliveries to retail outlets, with the occasional help of a “few retired guys,” he says.
As the business expanded, Reis hired Jesse Moore, who has been the company’s full-time account manager for two years. Moore takes orders and manages weekly distribution from a Des Moines cold storage facility. Retail outlets and restaurants in Omaha, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids now are customers, in addition to those in central Iowa. As time permits, Reis makes personal contacts with potential new customers.
He also continues as a vendor at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, plus the indoor winter market held four days each fall. And he competes at the annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, held for the 12th time February 15. Again this year, the Des Moines Bacon and Meat Company took home the “best bacon” prize, an honor bestowed on the company a total of six years…so far.
The same group that organizes the Des Moines event hosts a similar bacon festival in Colorado each June, where Reis’ bacon has won the top prize twice.
As if Reis wasn’t busy enough, now he is a partner in a new deli in downtown Perry called Common Wealth Provisions, which opened February 7. “It gives us an outlet for our deli meats,” Reis says. “Sandwiches are made-to-order, and customers also can buy sliced meats and cheeses by the pound.”
The deli is open 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday. “We’ve been really busy, and the response has been great,” Reis says. “What we’re offering is fresh, chemical-free products. My goal is to offer the freshest, leanest products at a reasonable price.”
As a bonus, Common Wealth Provisions also has a coffee bean roaster, and is selling bags of whole coffee beans. Reis says some businesses that offer Des Moines Bacon and Meat products soon will carry Common Wealth coffee beans.
Jim is the son of Bruce and Linda Reis, who moved from Perry to Lake Panorama 10 years ago. The couple also has three daughters – Kasey and Kate live in Des Moines, with Fran in California. They have six grandchildren, including Benton, age 7, and Tyson, age 5, who are Jim and Rachel’s sons.
The Des Moines Bacon and Meat Company website provides details on its products, locations and contact information to ask questions or place special orders. The company also has a Facebook page. The website address is: www.desmoinesbaconcompany.com.