Light Hill Meats came about as a result of hard work, passion, and planning.
When Ben and Lauren were dating and exchanging thoughts about their life goals, Ben told Lauren that one of his hopes was to own a meat processing facility. Lauren recalled thinking that it was an unusual goal and that she had never heard somebody say that before. Did people really have that kind of desire? But she knew that if anyone was going to make it happen, it would be a guy like Ben. A few years later, that dream became a reality with Light Hill Custom Butchery.
Light Hill grew from a passion for learning, creating, and innovating agriculture. Ever since Ben was little, he has been a worker --- whether it was chopping wood for the fireplace or cutting hay for a neighbor. No matter what, he could be found trying to better himself. This work ethic propelled Ben to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee-Martin, and later earned an MBA and a Master’s in Agricultural Operations.
Combining his love of studying numbers and raising cattle, Ben mulled over ways he could get into the beef business. Through the good hearts of others who lent him start-up money, he was able to purchase a small herd and begin his journey as a first-generation cattle producer.
It was then that a woman living in Montana caught his eye. Lauren, originally from Iowa, was working at the state’s ranchers’ association as the communications and outreach specialist. In this role, she produced hundreds of video clips featuring cowboys who told the stories of their family’s multi-generational ranches. She also published a 200-page coffee table photo book to teach consumers about what it takes to get a steak on their plate. Using his southern charm, Ben offered a life for Lauren in Tennessee and they married in December 2014. Lauren was in for quite the learning experience --- she had only documented ranching, never had hands-on work. She was excited to jump in and be the best cowgirl that she knew how.
Opening the Plant
After getting married, they soon found out a little boy was on the way. The field work for Lauren took a back seat, but she supported Ben in his ventures. He grew the cowherd and hired a farm manager to help with the day-to-day tasks.
One day, Ben came to Lauren with an idea...an opportunity too good to be true. A meat processing facility was going up for sale just down the road from where he grew up. It would be everything he had hoped for— he’d even have the ability to help the local community. The couple discussed the pros and cons but realized this may be the only opportunity to make Ben’s dream come true. So, with a mixture of anxiousness and joy, they purchased what was then Stones Slaughterhouse and Processing in Lynnville, Tenn.
Ben made the necessary updates to the facility and hired locals to cut the meat. He renamed the business Light Hill Meats to thank God who has blessed him in many, many ways. The doors officially opened in March 2017 with custom beef orders. Meanwhile, Ben worked on making the operation USDA-certified so customers could sell their processed products. They received USDA-inspection approval later that year and started processing hogs and sheep as well.
Later on, Ben and Lauren had two more children, both girls. Having three kids makes building a strong business even more worthwhile. What was especially exciting for Ben and Lauren was the ability to offer a full supply chain to customers looking for delicious and nutritious local beef. They feed the animals on pasture...they select only the best animals for consumption...they harvest them with professional meat crafts men and women...and age them for the best taste experience possible.
“We take the utmost pride in producing food that families can trust and be excited about when it’s on their tables at mealtime.” - Ben Neale
Diligent planning goes into every step of the process. Customers of Light Hill can be assured that care and quality are the top priorities in ensuring a masterpiece experience.
Opening the Store
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lauren noticed many social media posts of parents distraught from not being able to find meat in the grocery store or limited to 2 packages of ground beef. She mentioned to Ben that it might be a good idea to set up a pop-up shop to get meat to the community. They found a spot on the side of the road near to where they live in Columbia and kicked off their first pop-up shop. These became a hit in the community with people driving from all over for farm-fresh meat. Into 2021, the pop-ups continued every Saturday morning. Ben saw how popular the meat was with return customers and newcomers and he wanted to offer more. He had the idea to open a retail location to provide more quality meat to more people...and at a much more convenient schedule for customers. Ben found the open bay in Spring Hill and construction began in early 2022.
Natural Foods and Autism
In the summer of 2016, Ben and Lauren's son, Corban, was diagnosed with autism. Currently, there are many theories as to why our country is seeing the rise in autistic children and ways to work with those diagnosed. Ben’s bent toward research and article reviewing has led the family to choose a combination of bio-medical diet changes and therapy appointments that he would be happy to discuss with anyone that has questions or is facing the same situation.
Ben and Lauren have seen first-hand that improving Corban’s digestive health has helped him with many of the symptoms of autism. With this realization, they began to consider their own diet and the changes they could make to improve their family’s well-being by limiting preservatives and eating more natural products.
They apply these same principles to the practices on their farm and the products they offer.