Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for November 12, 2010

Farmers look to beef up meat production

Three farmers have formed a coalition to jointly expand the production of local beef products.

By Chuck Tobin on November 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm

photo

Photo by Chuck Tobin

BEEFY BUSINESS – Ray and Vanessa Falle stand in from of a cooler full of hanging quarters. Three Yukon farmers formed a coalition to put together the equipment needed to increase the production of local beef.

Three farmers have formed a coalition to jointly expand the production of local beef products.

Vanessa Falle of Falle Farms says there is definitely a market among Yukoners who are concerned about food safety and want to reduce their carbon footprint by buying products grown close to home.

“From the farm to the fork, or the pasture to the plate,” Falle says of the business model the new venture is built on.

Initially, she explained during the Star’s visit to the farm north of Whitehorse this week, she and her husband, Ray Falle, were talking about raising a handful of heifers for their own use.

As she points out, her retired father-in-law liked the idea – a lot.

Retired farmers just can’t sit still, she chuckles.

So Al Falle, the former Conservative MLA and founder of the Yukon Sod Farm now operated by Vanessa and Ray, got together with Bill and Barb Drury of the Circle D Ranch and Tom McCaw.

Why not, with 50 hectares of vacant field, thought the senior Falle.

Al says after two years of retirement, he just had to find something to do.

He helps out with the sod farm and Vanessa and Ray chip in with the beef business.

Falle, Drury and McCaw formed a coalition – Farmer 3 – and the three purchased 65 head of cattle in Alberta last spring, 22 of which spent the summer and early fall on the available pasture at the Sod Farm.

The coalition provided 90 to 95 per cent of the capital financing required to build a docking station for the Yukon’s mobile abattoir, the remainder coming from a federal fund used to promote agricultural pursuits.

In addition to a 12-metre cooling facility converted from a Sea-Can, there’s a 12-metre storage freezer, and the required plumbing has been installed to channel the “pink water” from the abattoir to a holding tank. A pit has also been dug and fenced to bury and store the specified risk material.

Next year, says Ray, they’ll be adding a butcher shop to the operation where meat can be inspected and thereby qualify for sales to local grocery stores, butchers and restaurants.

But it’s not the intent of the Falles to focus on wholesaling to retailers, says Vanessa.

She says if a grocery store wants to buy a side of beef, they’re more than welcome to.

Generally, however, the business plan doesn’t have enough of a bottom line to sell to retailers and have them turn around and make a profit, says Vanessa.

“There is a cap to what people are willing to spend for a pound of hamburger.”

Rather, she adds, the focus will be on serving clients directly, and she’s convinced there’s a market.

So much so, Ray adds, they’ll be expanding the number of heifers to 30 next year.

This being their first year in the business, the Falles ordered a mixture of ages but next year they’ll be all young cows, he says.

Ray points out there are specific requirements when handling heifers over 30 months, such as the need to remove and dispose of the spine, which is classified as specific risk material in animals of that age.

Removing the spine, he adds, means losing the T-Bones, and in the process the neck falls to the floor.

Once it does that, it has to be discarded and can’t be used for hamburger.

Ray says rearing the smaller heifers doesn’t produce the same volume of meat, but everything considered, it comes out equal in the end.

“Being it was our first year, we took a little bit of everything just to see how it all worked out.”

The Falles have just finished slaughtering and butchering their 22 head, and the freezer is lined with different cuts of meat. The last of McCaw’s heifers are still hanging in the cooler.

Vanessa said about one quarter of their meat was sold as whole sides, which range anywhere from 230 pounds for the younger cows to 320 for the older animals, at $4.50 a pound.

The Falles intend to sell the remainder of the meat in 50-pound boxes of mixed cuts at $6.50 a pound.

“About 35 to 40 per cent is hamburger and the rest roasts, steaks and stewing meat,” says Ray.

Vanessa says while their product may be a little more expensive, there is comfort in knowing the animals have not been fed any of antibiotics and such used in the large feed lots down south.

Before arriving here, the heifers – cows that have not had a calf – were free-ranging on a farm in Alberta.

Cuttings from the sod farm were used to feed the cows through the summer, along with a small amount of grain from the Yukon Grain Farm, and even the potatoes the grain farm can’t market because of their size.

“Cows like potatoes,” says Ray.

Vanessa says her heifers definitely fit the 100-mile diet profile used to describe the purchase of locally grown foods to reduce transportation and lessen the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere.

“Ours are on the five-mile diet, literally,” she says of the feed for the cows. “But the buzz word is the 100-mile diet.”

See related story below.

CommentsAdd a comment

Tim Fordyce

Nov 14, 2010 at 11:27 am

re: farmers importing beef.
The requirements for processing of older beef has restrictions placed on it for health reasons which were not elaborated on.The fact that Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is still present in imported Alberta beef (government approved food supply) should still be raising big red flags to everyone. BSE tends to concentrate in the nervous system but is also present in the entire blood system. Why are we still allowing meat that can and has transmitted Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease to humans into our food supply?

francias pillman

Nov 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm

New IDs, local beef? What’s next a 24hour SuperA? Wow, the Yukon is going way too fast. Please slow down. *rolls eyes*

Add a comment

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your full name and email address are required before your comment will be posted.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.

Comment preview