We talk about crossbreeds regularly around Sanagan's, but a cross we haven't seen before is a financial planner with an agricultural engineer. Peter, myself, and a few of our managers had the chance to see the results of this combination a couple of weeks ago when we visited Mike (the Engineer) and Chris (the Finance Guy) of Penokean Hills Farms, just outside of Sault Ste. Marie.
Though they may be the producer we work with that is farthest away from us, they may be one of the closest to us in terms of shared values. Penokean Hills is establishing the bulk of their sales in the GTA and Southern Ontario, but they are an intensely local company. They have essentially been born out of a need to utilise the resources around them in a combined effort to benefit the community at large. Not only do the principals raise their own animals, they also work with another 20+ farmers in the area to raise animals to their specifications. They share the best of their breeding stock, working to regenerate the herds with the most desirable traits (rib eye size, back fat/marbling, and feed efficiency). They've contracted farmers in the area to grow specific crops for them to be used as finishing feed for the animals (includes wheat, corn and dried peas). When the local abattoir was going out of business they took it over, preserving not just a half dozen jobs, but also the one location in the area farmers had to bring their animals to be processed. Though their own processing makes up the majority of the abattoir's week, they still process pigs, lambs and chickens for local farmers on a weekly basis.
Their focus though is their own beef, and it is spectacular. As mentioned, they are using their own breeding stock throughout the area to produce consistent animals with the most desirable traits. Their cattle have a minimum of 50% Angus genetics, and are primarily crossed with other British breeds (Hereford, Galloway, Longhorn), though they have incorporated some other continental European breeds in the mix as well (Charolais, Limousin, Simmental). Calves are raised with their mothers, on milk and pasture (or haylage, as the season dictates) for the first 6-7 months. After that time, they are weaned off of milk and move to all pasture/haylage. Their finishing mix is constantly being monitored and slightly adjusted based on nutritional assessments and the needs of the cattle. Components of the feed (again, including corn, wheat and dried peas) are kept separately and mixed to recipe specifications twice daily, which is then provided to the cattle for them to graze at their leisure.
The attention to detail and their desire to have input and control on every aspect of the animal's life-cycle is what impressed me the most. It wasn't enough for them to ensure the animal was raised properly, but also to ensure it was fed properly, and slaughtered properly. It is now on us to ensure the product is butchered properly, and sold with the love, care and attention that it deserves.
For the time being, you can find the Penokean Hills product with greater regularity at the Gerrard store, but as the Penokean Hills operation grows (they have a new processing plant in the works, with the hopes of being open by May 2020), you'll only see their expansion in Sanagan's as well.