Jeb’s earns ‘Virginia’s Finest’ seal

Published 9:42 pm Thursday, August 13, 2015

By Henry Luzzatto


In an area known for its meat production, it seems difficult for a small meat market to make a name for itself. But Jeb’s Meat Market and Diner in Carrollton has done just that.

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Jeb’s recently received the Virginia’s Finest seal of approval on three of its products: the smoked cottage bacon, smoked dinner sausage and cherry smoked ham.

“It’s like a seal of approval from the state,” said Jeb Bonnett, the owner of Jeb’s Market. “It means you’re producing a product that meets high standards.”

Bonnett, who has operated his business since 2001, said the road to this achievement was difficult.

“Federal regulations made the state change things,” Bonnett said, “and it almost put us out of business.”

Because curing meat requires restricted ingredients, Jeb’s Market had to stop making and selling some products, Bonnett said. In order to keep producing others, they had to get approval from the state, Bonnett said.

According to Bonnett, getting state approval meant they could enter their products to be considered for Virginia’s Finest.

“For us, there was a prize at the end of the tunnel,” Bonnett said.

Bonnett attributes some of his success to the fact that he does not produce a traditional country ham. Instead of traditional country ham, which is known for its intensely salty flavor, Bonnett says, his ham is milder and easier to eat.

“I don’t get asked much for country hams. Customers are increasingly getting away from heavily salted country hams,” Bonnett said.

Bonnett and his wife operate the market and the diner, which offers barbecue, ham, sausage, Korean dishes and more. Bonnett smokes, cures and cuts the meat in house, as he has done since he was a young man.

Bonnett, who used to live in Hampton, attended a meat cutting school in Toledo, Ohio, in 1975, where he learned his trade.

Jeb’s Meat Market and Diner entered the now-approved products in Virginia Living Magazine’s Made in Virginia Awards, which Bonnett said he hopes to win.

“I think we have a pretty good shot,” Bonnett said. “We make a mean ham.”

Bonnett said he hopes to get other products on the Virginia’s Finest list, with his smoked country sausage and Canadian bacon currently up for approval.

Bonnett said he eventually plans to take the business to the next level by having his business federally inspected and selling to wholesalers. However, he says, it will not lose the personal feeling and charm.

“I’ve been cutting meat all my life,” Bonnett said. “This is our love, our passion.”