I am all for “shopping locally” but didn’t really get the concept of that until a recent experience with Canada Beef. I was given the opportunity to tour a meat processing plant in Chilliwack, BC and while this doesn’t really sound charming, it was an eye opening experience.
I had not put much thought into my meat lately. I know we have access to fresh, local meat on the island here, and even have our own abattoir, but fresh meat never made my top 10 list of things to buy locally.
I would do my mass shop, load up on meat for the month and then throw it in the freezer, ready to be pulled out and prepared.
Meat was just something I “added to” the fresh ingredients on my table.
I was doing it all wrong.
After spending the day with representatives from Canada Beef, Behind the Beef and Overwaitea foods, I got a better idea of the importance of fresh meat, and local beef.
This has all been put into our heads via those nasty US documentaries. We know our beef is better, and many of us choose to buy Canadian. But what does that really mean? By choosing Canadian Beef you are not only purchasing a healthier cut of meat, from a healthier cow, you are also supporting local business. I get frustrated hearing complaints about our Canadian economy and then hearing stories of border living canucks running to the states to load up on beef and milk. It is time to make a choice to support the local cattle industry, as well as supporting your health. The ranchers raising our Canadian Beef Cattle live in your backyard. This is a LOCAL product, with local Canadians investing their time, energy and dollars to provide us with healthy beef.
And when they say CANADIAN, they mean CANADIAN. It is ONLY Canadian cattle they use, raised in Canada, slaughtered in Canada and prepared and packaged IN CANADA. Can you even imagine how many jobs that whole process supports?? The processing plant we visited had hundreds of staff, and this was just beef, pork and sausage going to Overwaitea stores in BC.
Preparation is KEY.
My mind was blown at the attention to safety and cleanliness that the processing plant adhered to. From the time the meat is opened to the fully packaged and sealed product at the end of the line, minutes passed. MINUTES! There were safety checks, double checks, testing and monitoring throughout the process. The temperature in the processing room was kept chilled to reduce bacteria and the safety protocols were extraordinary.
I left wishing there was an Overwaitea foods closer by. I left trusting their process and commitment to their product.
What NOT to do.
I also left smarter. The things I didn’t know about beef and our cattle industry were embarrassing. My top 3 take aways?
- Do NOT freeze your beef. I grew up with a freezer packed full of meat for easy to reach in and grab options. The meat was often thrown in, often still in it’s original styrophone packaging. The ice would form on the edges, and the meat would lose it’s color. It was drilled in by the amazing Canada Beef staff to NOT freeze the product. Buy it fresh, and use it fresh! Properly packaged (in Overwaitea Air tight packaging) the beef can last up to 30 days in your fridge. We have made this change at home, and the difference in our beef is amazing! So, buy local, and buy FRESH!
- Meat is a commodity. Beef cuts go up and down in price much like our other natural resources. Hot and sunny days see a rise in BBQ cuts, and with that rise, comes a shortage. Their best tip: don’t always choose the “popular” cuts. Canada Beef has pages of creative recipes on their website , with tips and ideas on how to use beef cuts, for various seasons and styles. Buy affordable cuts and use their recipes to watch the budget and get creative in the kitchen. I was a standard steak/roast/groundbeef kind of gal. Now we are exploring other cuts, and the kids (and our budget) are loving it.
- Passion counts. I didn’t understand the support network behind our cattle industry. I didn’t know about the resources, the research and the commitment to an exceptional product. I don’t know what I thought, maybe that it was just a “process” and that was all. What I now understand is that this is a committed Canadian industry. As much as any of our natural resources, our beef industry is a huge part of our culture and history. From ranchers across Canada, to associations providing education and resources to the consumer, our Canadian Beef is something Canadians should recognize, support and get excited about.
I feel fortunate to have had the chance to ask questions and explore the cattle industry with the crew from Canada Beef, BC Cattlemen’s Association and Overwaitea foods. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that changed my thinking and got me a lot more passionate about a Canadian Product. It also got me eating more beef (and preparing it right!) A huge thanks goes out to the brands for supporting this opportunity.