Ranch says on-farm abattoir will reduce animal stress

Alberta’s TK ranch facility will handle the slaughter of cattle, hogs and lambs and send them on for further processing

An Alberta ranching family has expanded their direct marketing efforts and opened their own abattoir.

Dylan and Colleen Biggs, owners of TK Ranch at Hanna, decided two years ago to build their own facility to reduce the stress of handling livestock and in their personal lives as they logged 2,000 kilometres a week delivering grass-fed beef, pork and lamb.

TK Ranch is an animal welfare approved operation, and with a new facility there is expected to be less stress on animals because they no longer have be loaded onto trucks and shipped.

Dylan Biggs is known throughout North America for his clinics on low stress livestock handling, so the abattoir fits in with their animal welfare goals.

“It is going to be much more positive for the animals because we won’t have to haul them anywhere and for us because we won’t have to get up at five in the morning to load cattle, pigs or sheep,” Colleen said.

The ranch has been direct marketing since 1997 and has animal welfare approval certification, which is a higher standard than the certified humane program.

Their customers have asked for good animal welfare and want to know how they handled.

“They want to know the animals are treated with respect from birth to slaughter and especially at the kill,” she said.

Their on-farm facility kills the livestock, while another outlet east of Calgary will further process the products. Final inspection was June 3.

The Calgary site sits on 113 acres and they hope to add a storefront and develop an agritourism element for clients looking for a drive to the country.

They bought the land in 2013 and were their own contractors, planned the facility and met with government officials to meet the regulations to continue selling their meat products direct, at grocery stores and restaurants.

“It was really very challenging to do but I went out of my way to meet with people who had lots of knowledge about meat processing,” Colleen said.

The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) partnered with TK Ranch on this initiative.

“We are the first company that has split slaughter from processing and it took a long time for ALMA to wrap their head around that. It addresses the same issues many of these small abattoirs are facing in rural Canada. It is hard for them to get employees, it is hard for them and try and compete with the big box stores,” she said.

Being closer to Calgary they could draw on a larger population to hire employees at the 2,600 sq. foot facilty. They can kill about 15 cattle a week and have cooler space for 45 head, as well as room for pork and lamb.

For the last 18 years, everything was done at Duchess, two hours south of the farm, but since 2011, the business has grown 350 percent and had outgrown the facility.

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