Meat centre educates global buyers, aims to build Canadian quality brand

The facility holds meat-cutting demonstrations and cooking classes

Marty Carpenter exudes delight as he walks through the kitchen at the Canada Beef Centre of Excellence.

“Why would a chef want to leave a kitchen like this,” said Carpenter, who is head chef for Canada Beef Inc.

Working with master butcher Abe van Meile, they will be welcoming the world to the centre to demonstrate how Canadian beef can fit any taste.

The centre is designed to host clients, who could include meat buyers from Canada’s major meat packing outlets or chefs from China and Mexico.

The concept includes a board room that doubles as a fine dining area as well as a fully equipped commercial kitchen, beef fabrication area and cold rooms.

Funds from the Western Economic Diversification Fund and Agriculture Canada were used to build a centre that is similar in concept to the Canadian International Grains Institute.

Located in northeast Calgary, the centre is equipped to show visitors various aspects of the beef chain.

They can visit a ranch and a feedlot and then come to the centre to work with Carpenter and van Meile on meat cutting techniques, cooking and merchandising.

“It was designed to show not only the technical aspects of beef but the social and emotional aspects of eating beef,” said Canada Beef communications manager Ron Glaser.

The beef fabrication room is used for yield testing, product quality assessment and specific muscle identification as well as product development.

The commercial kitchen includes ovens, grills, barbecue and stove tops and is set up like a theatre with tables where clients can watch cooking demonstrations. There is also the ability to do high definition video presentations, which can be broadcast around the world.

“It is not always feasible to put people on a plane and bring them here,” Glaser said.

The entire area follows a hazard analysis critical control point plan.

The planners had considered becoming a Canadian Food Inspection Agency certified facility, but there are no specific requirements for this kind of unit.

“We emulate CFIA specs and standards here, but getting certified wasn’t a feasible thing,” Glaser said.

Before building the centre, planners visited other facilities used by companies such as Cargill and Certified Angus Beef in the United States.

It was decided a facility for a working group of 20 to 30 people was ideal for teaching and demonstrations, which could include cooking classes or a course over several days to teach sausage making.

All meat used in demonstrations is donated to the Calgary food bank.

The centre started work in January and officially opened in March. Delegations from China, Mexico and Kazakhstan as well as Canadian companies have already come.

Sometimes they work on specific beef cuts that Canadians do not typically consume but are in high demand elsewhere such as tripe, tongues, kidney and liver.

“We are working with different cuts that we don’t normally use domestically, things like beef cheeks and skirt meat,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter and van Meile want the environment to be as user friendly as possible while still showing how Canadian beef can fit their cuisine and explaining the regulatory process or food safety standards.

“We are able to show them the pasture to plate process. We can take them to a ranch or to a feeder. It is all 30 kilometres away,” said Carpenter.

As well, a film crew will record cooking demonstrations that can go on YouTube or be found on a newly developed free app, Roundup, that shows a wide range of cuts and how to cook them.

“We can show people how to cut meat and do all sorts of interesting things in the kitchen and we also want to connect the emotional component to who our industry is and how we want to build a brand they can take back home, whether they are in Japan or here in Canada,” Carpenter said.

“We have tried to anticipate every customer opportunity, every en-gagement. We have tried to anticipate as much as we possibly can.”

Partnerships with meat-cutting schools such as Olds College or the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, where van Meile taught for 27 years, could be formed.

Other commodities like potatoes, mushrooms, barley or British Columbia wines could work with the Canada Beef staff to create special entrees.

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