Austin’s culture has always been about a harmonious blend of differences. As the capital of Texas, we’re home to the wild and woolly world of Texas politics. We’re also known as the Live Music Capital of the World, so whether you’re into rock’n’roll, blues, jazz, country, or hip-hop, you can find it here most any night of the week. We’ve got Longhorn sports, high tech startups, a wealth of restaurants and food trailers, the coolest swimming pool in the world at Barton Springs, incredible hunting in the natural beauty of the Hill Country, and more navel-gazers, daydreamers and massage therapists than you can imagine. Somehow, it all works together to create a place unlike anywhere else in Texas, or the world, for that matter.
For over four decades, atop the gradual hill that rolls gently up Congress Avenue from the Texas State Capitol, sits the Hudson Sausage Company. When you meet Bobby Hudson, the company founder, you’ll see a twinkle in his eye that tells of a man who has lived life well. Bobby learned the art of old school butchering from his father, and worked in grocery stores as a young man. Mr. Wallace Roberts had owned a business known as South Austin Cold Storage – a meat market, cold storage and deer processing facility cattycorner from the current location – since the 1940s. He asked Bobby to come and manage operations for him, and when he was ready to retire he sold the business to Bobby in 1969.
As Bobby recalls, “Things just exploded. We had a tremendous deer season; it was just like it had been waiting for me to get there.” In addition to the bumper crop of deer, the Nixon administration initiated price controls, which led to the public perception that there was a beef shortage. Consequently, the demand for sides of beef went through the roof, and Bobby says that instead of hanging the beef as usual, they had sides of beef “stacked like cordwood on the floor – the floor was clean, of course!” Hudson had struck gold, but the high volume of business took its toll on the facility’s aging refrigeration systems.
“In the summertime, we had to put water showers on top of the roof just to keep the sun from beating down and getting the freezers too hot. Occasionally we’d have to literally open up bottles of liquid nitrogen – it was tough!” says Hudson. After a couple of years of trying to outwit the Austin heat with his savvy engineering skills, Bobby built a place across the street that was better equipped to handle the booming business, and that’s where Hudson’s stands today.
The move allowed the plant to expand its full service meat market so appreciative customers could purchase sides or quarters of beef, special cut steaks and various sausages, and even store their meat on site. Bobby purchased meat from the old Austin Abattoir near downtown and custom-processed it for his growing client base. Bobby continued wild game processing for local hunters, who could have their deer or wild hogs hand-cut into steaks, ground into hamburger, or processed into a variety of delicious fresh and smoked sausages. Processing an average of 4,000 deer every year resulted in Bobby having to add on a cooler in the back solely for deer processing, which is still used today.
Investing in the business and adapting to change have been the hallmarks of a business that has thrived for over four decades. When Bobby started out in ’69, he built a wooden smokehouse and used an old washtub for the firebox. As the business grew, he retired the shed and installed a four-truck Koch Tendersmoke Cinderblock Unit inside the building. He added a home delivery service to the meat market and retail store. In 1990, the Hudson processing facility was certified as a USDA federally inspected meat plant, which allowed Hudson’s to supply the hotel and restaurant industry with fine steaks, exotic game and smoked meats. Bobby added his first stainless steel smokehouse, increasing efficiency and capacity to adapt to the changing market. Bobby changed the company name from Hudson Meat Market to Hudson Sausage Company to reflect the shift to supplying premium, locally crafted sausages and smoked meats to the wholesale market. In 1995, he added another two truck smokehouse so the business could keep on smoking! Even a fire in 2004, believed to have been caused by a faulty old mercury switch, couldn’t slow things down too much. Bobby rebuilt the western portion of the building and, while he was at it, added a new six truck smokehouse to the facility.
By 2007, even the hard-working Bobby Hudson was ready for a change. When Barret Klein offered to buy the company and keep the family name, Bobby passed the torch and decided to enjoy his grandkids and the fruits of his labor. He couldn’t have picked a better successor.
Barret grew up on a family farm east of Fredericksburg, Texas, learning to raise and care for livestock and learning to hunt at a very early age. His family on both sides was part of the wave of German immigrants who arrived in the Hill Country in the 19th century and brought their traditional methods of meat preparation and preservation to the rich and abundant game and livestock here.
In high school, Barret was an avid member of FFA and 4H, and his agriculture teacher inspired him to get involved in meat judging – a competition in which teams evaluate meat carcasses to determine the quality and yield each one will produce. This passion led to a degree in meat science from Texas A & M, where he was a member of the meat judging team, the livestock team, and a meats/livestock evaluation team. Barret went on to get a masters in meat science from Colorado State University, where he also coached a meats team that won an international competition in 1981. It might be safe to say, Barret knows meat!
Barret’s career began at IBP in Iowa, where he married his sweetheart whom he had met in Colorado. He soon felt a little homesick for Texas, and came home to work for Texas Meat Purveyors, producing top end steaks for some of the finest restaurants in the area. After a few years, the travel and long commutes in Dallas got him looking for a simpler arrangement, and he went to work for Wright Brand Foods. Even though it was a large company, it was a family-owned company, and the Wrights treated all 800+ employees as if they were family, too. Barret’s talents were quickly recognized, and he was soon promoted to general manager of the largest bacon processing plant in the country, cranking out two to three million pounds of bacon and a half a million pounds of ham a week. Making bacon? You bet!
Barret spent 15 years with the Wright family, but they eventually sold the business to Tyson, and the family aspect of the business changed. He began looking for a business or two that would allow him to balance family life with his passion for producing high quality sausages, exotic game, and smoked meats. He purchased Hudson Sausage Company from Bobby Hudson in 2007, and the Boerne Meat Market from the Waldek family in 2006. Both businesses share a history of sustained success, being family owned and operated, producing a variety of quality artisanal meats, and serving local hunters by offering the best deer processing services around.
By using his engineering skills and technical know-how gained over the past 30 years, Barret has applied the best in technology to the traditional methods already in place at Hudson’s. Most of Bobby Hudson’s experienced crew stayed on with Barret, so that whether it’s making sausage or cutting up your deer, the whole process is in good hands. The result is the same high-quality products Hudson’s customers have come to expect, produced in a consistent, efficient manner.
Just as the early pioneers succeeded in the Texas Hill Country by remaining flexible and adaptable, Hudson Sausage Company has managed to bring traditional recipes and products into the modern age of meat production. Hudson Sausage: You can taste the Texas!