Owners of Teal’s Meats supply customers with beef, pork and goat raised and processed on Ontario farms
Mark McCutcheon can’t help himself. When he talks about a segment of customers who come to his butcher shop, he lets out a sigh.
McCutcheon thoroughly enjoys the meat business, producing high quality sausage and cuts of meat for loyal clients.
Nonetheless, the questions can cause his blood to boil.
“What really makes me (frustrated) is people will pick up bacon, which they know has nitrates and is full of salt and is not the healthiest choice of food. Then they’ll look at beautiful, AAA marbled strip loin steaks, and they’ll ask, are they grass fed?” said McCutcheon, who runs Teal’s Meats near Waterford, Ont. with his wife, Anna Haupt.
“They don’t ask if the bacon is grass fed or antibiotic free.”
McCutcheon’s other pet peeve is the standard question about chickens.
“They always ask, is your chicken grain fed? You look at them like, what the heck else do you feed chickens?
“You learn pretty quick, when dealing with the public, that they really have no idea (about farming)…. They’ve really distanced themselves from agriculture.”
Prior to selling meat and raising Evi, 8, Helaina, 6, and Anya, 2, McCutcheon grew up on a dairy farm in Thorndale, Ont. Haupt was raised on a farm near Hagersville, south of Brantford.
They met at the University of Guelph, where they both studied agriculture. After graduation they wanted to farm but taking over the McCutcheon family dairy wasn’t an option.
McCutcheon’s dad wasn’t ready to retire and McCutcheon had several younger siblings.
“I decided, since I was the oldest, it was going to be me to leave the operation.”
McCutcheon took a job with a local butcher and developed an interest in meat cutting. In 2009, McCutcheon and Haupt spoke with the owners of Teal’s Meats near Hagersville, then bought the business, nearby farmhouse and 80 acres of land.
Haupt and McCutcheon were fortunate that Teal’s had an established brand of farmer’s sausage, well known in grocery stores in the area.
They sourced pigs and cattle from local suppliers and began selling fresh cuts of meat.
Haupt started a small herd of Boer goats and the couple now sells goat meat.
The expanded product line has generated new customers, sources of income and questions about livestock and meat.
“A lot of people ask … why don’t you have organic pigs? Why don’t you have backyard pigs?” McCutcheon said. “I tell them, we make close to 100,000 pounds of sausage per year. That’s a lot of backyard pigs.”
The challenge is to move past catchphrases like antibiotic-free or grass fed and talk about the realities of farming. That includes talking about treating a sick calf with pneumonia with an antibiotic.
“They (clients) say, OK. We under-stand what you’re doing and we understand why,” Haupt said. “That’s what keeps them coming back.”
McCutcheon and Haupt have many loyal clients that make the work satisfying.
“Having those customers that come in the door the first time, saying they’ve never been here be-fore…. Then next thing they’re a regular customer,” Haupt said.
“It’s a pretty nice sense of pride to see that. You’re doing things right and people are appreciating that.”
This past summer, they moved into a new processing plant that also has a kill floor, which will allow them to butcher animals on site.
They also added acres to the farm and have expanded the goat herd.
Many days are crazy and stressful but Haupt and McCutcheon are content.
“At the end of the day, it’s a really nice lifestyle…. Our butcher shop is here on the farm, the house is here,” Haupt said.
“My kids don’t have to go to daycare. They’re here with us, all the time. (And) they think it’s really neat that Mama and Papa are making food and that it ends up on people’s tables.”