MY family has been in the meat business for five generations, starting in the 1860s. My grandfather's family business specialized in beef. And my grandmother's family specialty was veal. Both families were in the Bronx.
After she married my grandfather in 1932, my grandmother was a guiding force in the business, which supplies wholesale meat to grocery chains and dry-aged, prime steaks to major New York steakhouses, restaurants and chefs. I have two sisters, one older and one younger, and my parents raised us in Chappaqua, N.Y.
I have known since I was a little girl that I wanted to be in the meat business. My father would take me along when he went to the company's meatpacking plant, which was then on West 133rd Street in Harlem.
I was so captivated by the idea of the meat business that when it was show-and-tell time at school, my idea was to take cuts of beef as well as eyeballs and cow brains to show my classmates. Later in life, I became known as Suzy Sirloin.
It was cold in the meat locker, so I always dressed in a coat. I also wore a turtleneck, a hat and gloves -- as if going skiing. I began by answering phones and checking bills. It was always fun to accompany my father when he visited buyers like steakhouses or grocery stores.
But my father also encouraged us to have broader horizons. I attended college at Catholic University in Washington and earned my degree in sociology in 1989. I played a lot of volleyball, and in my senior year I began working at a gourmet market on Capitol Hill. I liked it so much that I continued working there after receiving my degree.
In 1991, I decided to move back to New York and go into the meat business. My first job was putting together boxes. Then I was promoted to packing meat in boxes, which were then loaded into tractor-trailers.
One day, while helping pack meat in a box, I noticed that the delivery was running late, so I asked my co-workers to toss the meat to me faster. They threw a 30-pound roast so fast that I fell in the fat and blood. After that, I asked my dad if I could just stick to answering the phones, and he agreed.
My father trained me in how to buy and sell meat, and I had to learn to be a dogged negotiator in an industry that was dominated by men. One sister decided not to join the business, and my other sister is our bill collector -- that's also a tough job.
One thing I enjoy is the chance to visit some of our suppliers, who are located in Iowa, Colorado and Nebraska -- something I like so much that I wear a cowboy hat as a tribute to the hard-working ranchers and farmers.
Last year, we started to sell to customers of Williams-Sonoma the type of prime, dry-aged steaks we sell to steakhouses. People can order our steaks and other meats from the online store and have them delivered to the door.
People are still eating our beef, often as a celebration meal. So to make it more accessible for everyday meals, I expanded our offerings in the New York metropolitan area last year to include natural beef, lamb, pork and veal under a new independent label called Suzy Sirloin. The meat, which has no hormones or antibiotics, comes in one-pound packages to make it easier for home cooks.
To keep up with industry news, and to offer recipes, health and safety tips, I started a Web site called the Sirloin Report. When I travel, I often promote American beef and its nutritional value. I earned a special kind of M.B.A. -- a Master's in Beef Advocacy from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association -- to help me be a better ambassador.
As told to Elizabeth Olson.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.