After learning about many current practices in the beef industry, Jennifer Barclay decided she couldn’t eat meat that was raised inhumanely.
So she began a search in Nelson, where she lived at the time, for humanely raised beef, but there was one problem.
She couldn’t find any.
“I was frustrated with not being able to find the kind of meat I wanted to eat,” Barclay said.
Barclay was working in Nelson-Creston NDP MLA Michelle Mungall’s office at the time, and decided to organize a meeting of farmers in Creston. She spoke with some of the farmers to see if distributing Kootenay-raised beef on her own was possible.
And from there, Fattoria Local Foods was born.
(Barclay, who has spent quite a bit of time in Italy and speaks Italian, said “fattoria” means “farm” in Italian.)
“Right off the bat, I immediately got a lot of great press and restaurants started contacting me,” she said.
Barclay said she owes a lot of her success to the Community Futures program of the Central Kootenay, a program that assists new business owners with training, loans, counselling and resources.
She wasn’t just learning about business practices, however, she was also learning about the farms and the beef that she would be selling.
“It was a huge learning curve because I didn’t know a lot about it.”
She visited the farm in Creston where the beef comes from and spent a lot of time with “her” farmer. She continues to make trips to the farm about once a month.
“I’m fully schooled in exactly what’s going on in these farms,” she said.
The two most important factors in the meat she’s selling, Barclay said, is that the cows are never put in a feed lot and when they’re killed it’s done instantly and they feel no pain. They’re also all grass fed, which Barclay said is more natural for the cow. Grass-feeding makes the meat leaner but doesn’t affect the flavour, she said.
“I really like the grass-fed aspect.”
It’s also certified AA angus beef, so eating humane doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality, she said.
When the meat is ready to go, the farmer drives out from Creston and delivers it to her current home in Castlegar.
Barclay puts the beef into 25-lb. packages that can fit into the freezer above your fridge and delivers them right to her customers’ doors. She estimates she has about 100 customers now.
She admits that the meat does cost a bit more, but that’s because the farmers are getting paid properly and the cows are being raised properly as well.
“As a society we think that meat should be cheap … the only reason that meat is so cheap is because the animals are raised en masse.”
The packages come with an assortment of cuts, and Barclay began receiving feedback that some people didn’t know how to cook some of the cuts they were given, so she’s started providing recipes on her Facebook page, “fattoria local foods” and her blog, fattorialocalfoods.inthekoots.com.
In the spring, Barclay will start selling chickens and she said hopefully by the summer she’ll have lamb available as well.
Currently, the beef is for sale at Evergreen Natural Foods and the Co-op in the Slocan Valley, and is on the menu at the Hume Hotel and Bibo Wine Bar in Nelson.
Each 25-lb. package costs $150 and on average lasts about two to three months.
Barclay said she’s not trying to preach to people, however.
“I’m not trying to guilt or scare people, I’m just trying to get people excited about it.”
To place an order, call Barclay at 250-505-7765.