Longtime Lacombe-area bison rancher Armin Mueller is hanging his shingle on a new shop.
Mueller and partner and master butcher Jakob Jud will swing open the door on Friday on a new storefront location in Lacombe featuring frozen natural meat, mostly from surrounding producers.
Rangeland Meat Shops is the first of what could be a string of stores offering bison, elk, chicken, pork and beef free of antibiotics and growth hormones.
Free range and grass fed will be other promises those with a taste for natural meat will find on packaging, depending on the products.
For the past 15 years, Mueller has run Canadian Rangeland Bison, overseeing a 2,000-head bison ranch near Lacombe. He has also run Canadian Rangeland Elk for a decade.
Mueller believes the time is right to offer discriminating meat lovers a healthy product that is locally raised and produced.
He sees it as a showcase for the high-quality meat offered by fellow producers in Central Alberta.
“Most of our meat is free range,” he said.
Buyers can be assured that the animals spent most of their time outside of pens, feeding in pastures, and were not subjected to truck journeys of thousands of kilometres.
His bison and elk are “aged to perfection” and then frozen for sale in the shop, which is located about a kilometre east of Lacombe on the north side of Hwy 12.
Besides the obvious draw for those interested in a more natural meat product, Rangeland Meat Shops will provide an economic boost to the local economy and its producers, said Mueller.
It’s not the first time Mueller has opened a storefront. He ran a shop near Rimbey for about five years. At the time, the market was not quite ready, he believes. That, combined with an out-of-the-way location, meant he closed the doors in 2007.
“I think Lacombe is a way better location,” he said, adding his business also has a higher profile.
“People are really looking for the meat,” he said.
With Canadian Premium Meats nearby and a wide range of local producers, it is the perfect spot for their first shop.
The business taps into growing consumer demand for healthier eating options, as well as the growing enthusiasm for local eating trends such as the 100-Mile Diet movement.
Jud was trained as a butcher in Switzerland and has 30 years in the meat industry. He worked in Europe and B.C. before coming to Central Alberta about four years ago, where he focused on setting up the new shop.
“It’s a good thing. It’s come a long way,” he said.
The shop will be open Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.