Canada News

Get the latest new in Candada

Calgary

More Albertans are buying entire cows to fill their freezers, say cattle ranchers

Tim Hoven, who raises cattle near Red Deer, says more people are buying beef in bulk from ranchers across the province. 

His family, which he says has been farming the same land for more than a century, sells different bundles including the meat of an entire cow, or half a cow, cut and wrapped for families to fill their freezers. 

“People are really wanting to spend a larger amount of money and buy larger beef packages and our smaller beef packages have kind of dropped off in sales,” said Hoven. 

“I attribute that to [the fact that] the economy is slowing down a little bit and the cost of living is increasing.” 

Hoven believes fewer people are buying organic beef, but those still in the market are buying more of it at once, to boost food security and avoid any spikes in beef prices.

A whole beef ordered from his farm is around 400 pounds of meat, he said. 

He charges $5.55 per pound for whole beef orders, plus processing costs. 

Hoven believes fewer customers are ordering his organic beef, but those still buying are getting larger amounts.
Hoven believes fewer customers are ordering his organic beef, but those still doing it are buying larger amounts. (Submitted by Tim Hoven)

Expensive, niche market

It’s uncommon for farmers to offer direct-to-consumer beef sales, according to the Alberta Beef Producers. 

Vice-chair Sheila Hillmer says creating a small meat-processing facility from scratch requires heavy investment and government-inspected operations.

“The challenge is always finding that small abattoir that will allow you to process your own,” she said. “It’s a very expensive business. You know, labour shortages are hard … it’s a niche market.”

Hillmer added that cattle producers in the province are already facing lean times and severe cost pressures brought on by drought conditions, forcing many ranchers to downsize their herds. 

Multiple Alberta municipalities where ranchers raise beef cattle declared agricultural disasters this year, including the County of Stettler, Vulcan County and Wheatland County, due to an extreme lack of moisture. 

Despite industry strain, Hillmer said there’s a growing demand for direct-to-consumer beef and she hopes more ranchers can take advantage of the interest spike. 

“More and more people want to know where their food comes from, and not just go to a store and buy it,” she said. 

“That’s a movement probably in the last ten years that’s getting stronger, for sure.” 

Barry Doerksen said his business is seeing higher demand for bulk beef packages, which can often fit in a nine or 10 cubic foot freezer.
Barry Doerksen said his business is seeing higher demand for bulk beef packages, which can often fit in a nine or 10 cubic foot freezer. (Submitted by Barry Doerksen)

Bulk orders booking months in advance

Gemstone Grass Fed Beef uses a family-owned slaughterhouse in Brooks, Alta., to process its meat, said owner Barry Doerksen.

The business is also seeing higher demand for bulk beef orders, from animals raised on the farm in Gem, Alta., near Red Deer. 

“[Customers] used to maybe order like 15 pounds of ground beef at a time,” said Doerksen. “Now [they’re] ordering 60 or 90 pounds at a time.” 

Half-cow or quarter-cow packages make up around 20 per cent of the farm’s total sales, he said, and some families place several massive beef orders every year. 

“Right now we’re booking a few months out,” said Doerksen. 

“I get a few animals a week booked as quarters … We are definitely not seeing the demand for it slowing down.”

View original article here Source