Do you know how far your meat travels? Knowing the mileage that goes into your beef, chicken, and pork is incredibly hard because industrial agriculture tries their best to keep the route from their “farms” to the grocery store a secret. You also won’t know what went into feeding the animal or what has been done to ready the meat for the grocery store. The more we do to understand where our meat comes from, the better it will be for the local economy, the planet, and our bodies!
We are so happy to be partnering with one of the finest local producers, VG Meats, for our brand new Goodness Me! private label meat! The line includes pasture-raised chicken and beef, as well as pork, all sustainably raised on small herd farms with no added hormones. It’s the perfect fit, really: we’re two family-owned and operated companies with deep roots in helping Ontarians eat cleanly and responsibly. Locavores rejoice!
Making the drive to VG’s headquarters, you get one of the best cross-sections of Ontario imaginable. Travelling from our Hamilton Mountain location to Simcoe, you drive through a concrete cityscape that gradually eases into small-town life that, in turn, gives way to the rolling greenery of Ontario’s Garden, Norfolk County. It’s the same journey all the Van Groningen family meat takes in reverse, and it makes sense: everything, from the ownership to the final cuts, is homegrown.
When we met the four Van Groningen brothers – Cory, Chad, Kyle, and Kevin – we congregated where they’ve hammered out many deals over the years: around the old harvest table in the kitchen of their parents’ home. The Van Groningens have been farming in Ontario since their parents started the business in the Seventies, and all four men have different skills that they’ve applied to the business, taking on every part of the process personally. Kyle acts as the connective tissue between farmer, processing plant, and customer in his role as Customer Service rep; Chad learned the art of butchery from the best (his father), but also spreads the VG message across the province; Cory lives and works on a farm in Haldimand, raising cattle with his family; and Kevin earned his Bachelors of Science in Agriculture from the University of Guelph, heading the business’ Food Science department. Together, they form a dream team for raising, handling, and selling Ontario-grown meat, and they’ve put their knowledge together to overhaul the way we eat local.
If you live in the Norfolk area, you’ll know the sterling reputation VG Meats has as a company committed to raising sustainable beef, chicken, and pork, and how they work with the community to get it done. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll know how easy it is to get hooked (ask our chef, Sandy Pomeroy!), so being able to partner with them to bring sustainable, wholly Ontario meat to all Goodness Me! locations is an exciting step for us to make. It’s a mutual trust, because once you know their process, you’ll know their integrity. We came together because VG Meats is one of the few companies that makes their value chain – everything they do to improve the quality of their meat – known to the customer.
When we first arrived at the family farm in Simcoe, we were given a rather unusual gift. Kyle passed around a bag and told us to smell and feel what was inside. Standing on the muddy driveway in the start of a gentle snowfall, we were all greeted with a warm, earthy aroma, the same aroma that greets the cattle every day: the natural silage that makes up their diet. Kyle wanted to impress upon us that VG’s value chain starts right at home. They personally source their feed, they have their own facility (putting to good use the butchering skills dear old dad taught them), and they package their own meat. They still have their own farms, too, but also bring in the production of other cattle from farmers who share their values. At every step along the way, the Van Groningen brothers have a close eye on what goes in and what comes out of their hard work, and they’re the first farmers in Ontario who’ve made the technological leap that makes this possible!
After the smell test, we moved inside, shed our winter clothing, and sat around the harvest table to listen to all four Van Groningen brothers passionately go through their roles in and expertise of the industry. They explained how they developed an innovative system that gives our meat consumers an accurate account of the quality of the product, all while changing how we see what we put on our table:
It’s not like they haven’t been recognized, either – their farm-to-table guarantees of quality have earned VG Meats both the Meat Industry Achievement Award and an Ontario's Finest Meat Competition Platinum Award!
Sustainably raised meat is far superior to what comes out of those large agricultural conglomerates, and it’s not because of the lovely story and people behind it. More and more consumers are turning to their own backyards because the meat is tastier, they can talk with the people who raised it, and they can appreciate what it does for the local economy.
In visiting the direct source, the Goodness Me! team was able to see firsthand the importance of following meat from farm to table and understand how our values were lived so well by the Van Groningen family. The more steps placed between the cow in the field and the table in your dining room means that more processing and transportation is required, making a far less healthy, far less sustainable product.
For example, the VG team takes extra initiatives to ensure that no hormones are used on any animal that will go through their system. Growth hormones and implants are easy signs that shortcuts have been taken on raising the animal, which is a good sign they haven’t been raised properly. It’s one of the many reasons why having a keen eye is important in the industry. Despite being two companies on either end of the process, VG Meats and Goodness Me! both place a high priority on animal welfare, and our partnership will allow responsibly-raised meat for a great price!
Speaking of great prices, you’ll be getting sustainably-raised chicken, beef, and pork at a price that you can actually afford. One of the hardest parts about buying local is the money you have to shell out, but our partnership with VG Meats means you’re getting local meat at super competitive prices… super competitive even for regular meat. $4.99 a pound is a good price for regular beef, but here it’s grass-fed, pasture-raised, and local! We also have a wider variety than you’ll find anywhere else – you’ll even find grass-fed brisket and rare cuts like flat iron and skirt steaks on Goodness Me! shelves.
Eating meat raised responsibly means eating meat raised locally, because your food should be more than just good for your body. It should also be good for the planet as well! This is why shoppers shouldn’t have to ironically go the distance when they want to buy products close to home – businesses should make these choices easy. There’s no reason why a high-quality steak should travel 1000 kilometers to your doorstep, and we know our partnership with the VG Meats family will satisfy the locavore in all of us. Happy eating!