Beef co-op going to market

Three Spruce View-area cow-calf operators have formed a unique co-operative to sell hormone- and antibiotic-free beef to customers, starting this fall.

Three Spruce View-area cow-calf operators have formed a unique co-operative to sell hormone- and antibiotic-free beef to customers, starting this fall.

Russell and Anita Wolf and their daughter Amanda, Troy and Chrissy Conway, and Robin and Christi Severtson comprise the Spruce View Farms Co-operative.

“We’re hoping to market our first animals in October,” said Russell Wolf.

The co-operative will buy calves at a specific weight from each of the three family farms and then the animals will be finished in a non-confined manner. In this way, 100 animals will have 20 acres in which to roam versus a traditional feedlot that runs 100 animals per acre.

The animals will be fed a combination of grass and grains, and once they’ve grown to a desired weight, they’ll be processed locally.

Consumers will buy packages — a 4.5-kg (10 pounds) order or a nine-kg (20 pounds) order per month. They can pre-buy three, six or 12 months in advance.

“By doing that, they’re investing in the co-op,” Wolf said.

The beef will then be delivered once a month. Each order will contain one-third prime cuts, one-third roasts and one-third trims like hamburger.

Wolf said the meat will be 100 per cent antibiotic-free and hormone-free.

“A lot of what is advertised is three months without hormones or antibiotics,” Wolf said. “Our co-operative is a never-ever policy.”

If an animal becomes sick, antibiotics would be used, but it wouldn’t end up qualifying for the co-operative meat, he added.

“The producer would have to keep diligent records as to which animals do get sick,” he said.

Wolf said the families decided a co-operative model could work in the area.

They believe their co-operative for beef is the first of its kind in Alberta, and possibly the first in Canada. Typically, co-operatives have involved vegetable producers and the like.

“When the co-op sells an animal, the co-op will pay back to its three producing members an equity payment — and that would be determined by the board,” Wolf said.

The producers, who are the board members, will determine how much is kept in savings for capital expenditures.

Consumers may get a little dividend as well, depending on how well the co-operative is doing financially, he added.

“They have an investment in the farm by buying pre-packaged (meats), that’s how community supported agriculture works,” said Wolf.

Under provincial legislation, a new generation co-op — which is what this one is designated — can attract outside investors.

“As we grow, we can get outside investors and they can have a different level of shares and a different level of voice in the co-op,” Wolf said.

Eventually, the co-op would like to bring pork, lamb and poultry into its operations.

The co-operative will soon have a website, wwwspruceviewfamilyfarms.com

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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