MARSHALL - A monumental product that could revolutionize the quality of wild game meat served on tables everywhere was recently brought to life in the small town of Balaton.
A product of Camden Outdoors, Game Tender is a patented in-field game tenderizer that uses electrical stimulation to increase tenderness and enhance flavor in the meat. The Game Tender campaign was launched in April, hitting the shelves first at Borch's Sporting Goods in Marshall. Co-founders Brian Knochenmus and Doug Wing expect the product to gain popularity as word of mouth spreads.
"If you're into game meat, Game Tender is as important as a gun," Knochenmus said. "We'll be investing in some pretty intense advertising this year, but anytime you have word of mouth, that's the preferred mode of awareness."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
At Borch’s Sporting Goods Friday, Camden Outdoors co-founders Brian Knochenmus, left, and Doug Wing stand in front of their new product, Game Tender, which was released onto the market in April. Game Tender uses simple electronic stimulation to improve the tenderness and flavor of wild game meat.
Knochenmus and Doug Wing are both avid hunters and live with their families near Camden State Park. They started the Camden Outdoors business in 2007. Manufacturing coordinator Mike Wing works out of office in Balaton.
"Camden Outdoors is really about inspired hunting technology," Knochenmus said. "When we're out in our tree stands and shooting our bows, we think about things. The outdoors, God's creation, is an aspiring place to be. Camden is a place for those ideas to come to life."
The co-owners are also employed at Ralco Nutrition, Inc. Knochenmus is vice president of the company, while Wing is currently vice president of operations. Being involved in animal nutrition at Ralco has given the duo priceless marketing insight.
"We see a lot of opportunities to take what we see on the animal nutrition side to the wildlife market," Knochenmus said. "We had this idea of taking a device that would tenderize meat to the industry. It was a unique concept in that the technology has been used for decades in the commercial meat processing, but the technology has not been made portable, until now."
Knochenmus and Wing both admitted to being skeptics at first, thinking that the concept was too good to be true. But they quickly became advocates. So did their families.
"I went online and found all the research out there from Texas A & M and Duke University," Wing said. "The technology was proven by them, so for us, it was basically just taking it to a portable device. That's what sold it for me. Then when you taste it, it confirms what you already assume."
Knochenmus explained that there is energy in the muscle tissues, especially if a game animal is chased. After death, the energy pulls the muscle fibers together into an irreversible contraction, which makes the meat tough. It also wrings the water, electrolytes and nutrients out of the meat instead of retaining them.
The two biggest obstacles in bringing Game Tender to life were obtaining a patent and minimizing the weight of the device.
"It was such a novel idea, we didn't want someone else stealing it," Knochenmus said. "Getting a patent was a challenge. It was a two-year process and it was spendy."
They also had to design a device that was practical.
"Our first device used two big 6-volt batteries and was heavy," Wing said. "So the challenge was to get it to where it was portable and you could put it in your jacket or on your belt. The batteries also had to be easy to exchange."
Now that Game Tender is on the market, the co-founders can't say enough about its potential.
"Depending on the size of the animal, it takes 30 seconds to three to four minutes, Knochenmus said. "That's all. A turkey would be one to two minutes, a deer, maybe three to four minutes. You basically hook up the two probes, turn it on and it pulses electricity through the carcass."
The result speaks for itself when it reaches the dinner table.
"It's unbelievable," Knochenmus said.