In recent years, there’s been a resurgence of consumer interest in local food – it’s fair to say that today, an increasing number of consumers think that local is the way to go whenever possible. If you ask people why they shop local, many reply that it’s fresher, has a smaller environmental footprint, supports the economy and creates jobs all along the food chain that links farm to fork.
I cannot deny the influence of the growing local food movement on my grocery shopping habits today – my eggs, meat, honey and some vegetables are all purchased from local producers in Sturgeon County. The difference in quality of produce from a local farm relative to a big chain store can be quite stark in some cases. Apart from taste, I enjoy the personal connection to the farms where crops and animals are produced. I certainly felt that way when I visited Cardiff Meat and Sausage early this October.
Located near Morinville, Cardiff Meat and Sausage is a licensed and inspected butcher shop owned and operated by Tony and Brenda Rustemeier; third generation livestock producers that specialize in all aspects of the beef industry from cow-calf and seed stock production to feedlot finishing and custom processing. Twenty-six years ago, the butcher shop began doing custom cutting and wrapping for local farmers and hunters and in recent years they have expanded their mandate to provide affordable, naturally raised, high quality beef direct from their farm to local consumers.
Tony and Brenda note that they’ve seen a rise in demand from people looking for an alternative to mass-produced meat. The couple forms a growing number of livestock farmers across Canada who are breaking from the status quo and raising fewer animals, typically letting them graze on pasture. They tend to slaughter their animals in smaller abattoirs, and then sell the meat through a growing network of independent butchers or directly to consumers.
Butchers have always been an important resource to any civilization from the humblest of villages to the most urban of cities. The art of the butcher has steadily evolved to become one of the world’s oldest and most respected professions. The local butcher was a major neighborhood fixture by the dawn of the 20th century. Today, most of them employ their trade at food processing companies and large supermarkets.
However, there remains a small pocket of neighborhood artisans that help us relive that nostalgia of simple times and a sense of connectedness with the food we eat. I admired them both as they worked in their little shop. Tony is a true artisan - with careful hands and a calm demeanor while Brenda pays keen attention to quality and customer service. With high standards for themselves as far as meat products go, the couple has grown a successful business with confidence in their craft developed over years of dedication.
Working in a custom shop where meat is often cut to customers’ orders means the workload varies from day to day and week to week. There are always new challenges, and frustrations, and yet as they cut different parts of different animals, the couple takes time to do it right.
The animals are fed naturally
Though I didn’t visit the Rustemeier farm in the summer, I managed to get a picture of their animals grazing on the rolling grasslands of the County.
Their calves are born on pasture in April and May and then in the fall, they are weaned and fed through the winter on hay and oats green feed. When they mature to yearlings, they are moved back to pasture with a supplementary self-feed ration of grain. This results in a beef product that is rose colored, well marbled and intensely flavorful.
The Rustemeiers additionally use selective breeding to attain specific traits in their beef cattle. An example of a desired trait could be leaner meat or resistance to illness. To achieve the standard of “naturally raised beef”, the animals are raised without the consumption of growth hormones or antibiotics. That’s as close as one can get to the stringent standards of organic meat.
Great meat cuts for a variety of cooking
The chart above shows the types of cuts you can get from a steer and the best cooking method type for each cut.
I would highly recommend Cardiff Meat and Sausage for their locally produced beef – the quality of their product is simply outstanding!
If you’re interested in dropping off game animals (elk, deer etc.) as well, call the Rustemeiers at 780-973-5998 or 780-908-5998. The butcher shop is located on 24512 Township Rd 554 (Cardiff Road) Sturgeon County.
Cardiff Meat and Sausage makes us #SturgeonProud