Family dedication leads to T&W Meats’ success

By Eric Killough

Freelance reporter

Special to the Tribune

Local store quietly celebrates 40th anniversary

T&W Meats, along with their 24 employees, recently celebrated their 40th year in business. Bryan Kirby, son of the business’ founders Michael and Susan Kirby said the company has a long, generational history in Pratt and Kingman County. All three of Mike and Susan’s children learned the trade through working after school and on weekends with both Bryan and his brother Sean joining the company full-time immediately after graduating high school.

“It means a lot that our family has stayed together at this for so long and weathered all the challenges along the way, such as the Covid pandemic,” Kirby said. “This industry is not for everyone, and we are a dying breed. Every little town used to have a packing house. Greensburg had one, Coldwater had one, Pratt had one, Preston had one. For my brother and I, it is a trade, or art if you will, that was taught to us by our dad.”

Kirby said his parents purchased the company on August 15, 1983, and then he was born on November 12 of that same year.

“Essentially, what happened was my dad grew up in Dodge City where he, his brother, and four friends worked in a meat processing plant, which is now my uncle’s (Tim Kirby) and called Kirby Meat,” he said. “Over time all of the individuals split up, each establishing their own little meat plants. One of these operations was located in Coldwater, another in Dodge city, one in Mineola, one in Hesston, and my mom and dad took ownership of the one in Preston, named T&W Meat Co.”

Kirby said that the Preston plant was where everything started for the Kirby family in 1983.

“We purchased the Kingman plant in 2009, and the Pratt retail store in 2015,” he said. “Our Pratt retail location is in a building that my wife and I bought from Vince Epp in 2014.”

Kirby said that he and wife, Erin, lived in Pratt, and at that time, a lot of people were asking them to bring meat home for them from Kingman or Preston on a regular basis.

”I would end up driving around different places after work most days, dropping off meat for people in Pratt,” he said. “We even brought in a refrigerated truck, and set up at the old Farmers Market location a few times, which quickly sold out. We knew there was a need in Pratt and we wanted to offer a convenient way to serve our own Pratt community, so we decided to use the main street building, and start the Pratt retail location.”

Common among consumers these days is the question of where food is sourced. Kirby said the main meat source for T&W Meats is Pratt County, with Kingman County also a major source.

“We do outsource a few steaks, but the bulk of what we kill comes from Pratt and Kingman with the rest sourced from other locations in Kansas, especially Dodge City,” he said.

Speaking to T&W’s product line, Kirby said that the Pratt store sells beef, chicken, and pork.

“Our chicken comes from Phil’s Farms out of Hutchinson. A lot of what we do is mass quantity purchases such as government orders,” he said.

An interesting destination for a lot T&W meat is baseball parks.

“We slaughter the beef and then it will go to Smithfield Foods in Wichita, and they distribute beef hot dogs to all the ball parks. 60,000 pounds per week of our Kingman beef ends up in hot dogs with much of that going to Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals,” Kirby said.

Kirby is understandably proud of what T&W has become, and above all is grateful to his father’s unwavering dedication for building it into what it has become.

“The main reason this company is what it is, is my dad. That’s what I really want to highlight. So many other people had someone to help them out, but my dad didn’t. He didn’t have a lot growing up, and just always wanted something more for his family,” he said. “Max Wimmer (of the original T&W) gave him a chance in Preston, and my dad took it. He worked seven days a week to make it successful, he’s 63 years old and he’s on the kill floor right now. My mom, myself, my brother Sean, we get the glory, and that’s how my dad wanted it. But he deserves all the credit. “

T&W Meat Co., Pratt, is located at 112 ½ Main St. Pratt; phone number 620-672-1199. Special deals are promoted as part of the ongoing anniversary this month.

T&W Meat Co. Kingman is located at 1330 West D. Ave. Kingman and can be contacted at 620-532-3377.