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To buy their beef, Albertans

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An ox can give around 180 kg (400 kg). lb) of meat, according to Tim Hoven.


Beef producers are seeing more and more Albertans coming to buy whole animals from them rather than buying meat at the supermarket.

C' This is notably the case of Tim Hoven, whose family has farmed for over a century. Among the products that are gaining popularity is the bulk purchase of the whole meat of an animal or half an animal prepared and intended for the freezer.

People are willing to spend more upfront for larger packages of beef, while sales of our smaller packages are declining, he explains. I think it's an effect of the economic slowdown and the increase in the cost of living.

If he sees fewer people buying organic beef, those who buy it buy more at a time.

Buying a whole steer provides about 180 kilograms of meat, which Tim Hoven sells for $12.24 per kilogram, or about $2,200 per head, plus processing costs.

It's rather unusual to see individuals doing business directly with breeders, says the Alberta Cattle Breeders' Association.

Its vice-president, Sheila Hillmer, explains that the creation of a small slaughterhouse and processing center is expensive and requires the approval of government authorities.

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The challenge is always finding a small slaughterhouse that allows you to process your own meat, she says. It's a very expensive business [for] a small market.

She adds that the market is already being undermined by the labor shortage work and the drought that prompted several municipalities, including Stettler, Vulcan and Wheatland counties, to declare a state of agricultural disaster.

She still hopes that direct sales will have a beneficial impact on the breeders' business.

At Gemstone Grass Fed Beef, the increase in sales direct is also felt, says owner Barry Doerksen. Brooks' family-owned slaughterhouse processes cattle raised on the Gem farm outside Red Deer.

While consumers were ordering something like 15 pounds [6.8 kg] at a time, now they buy 60 [27 kg] or 90 pounds [40 kg].

Sales of half-beef sets alone represent 20% of the company's sales.

At the moment, we take orders every few months 'advance, says Barry Doerksen.

With information from Brendan Coulter

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