Founded in 2006, Deerview Meats near Medicine Hat was originally set up by owners Chris and Perry Deering as a means to slaughter their own venison herd and get full benefit of the value-added components, which, prior to that, were being farmed out to other meat packing plants. Eleven years later Deerview Meats has quadrupled in size and has become a full service red meat packing plant catering mostly to beef slaughter.
“We started construction on this (larger) facility in 2011, but there was no way you could run a business like this just off of diversified livestock,” says Perry Deering. “Beef had to be the foundation. The beef is 80 per cent of my world now. The balance of 20 per cent is made up of the pork, the bison, the lamb, venison, etc.”
Deering says local ranchers are his main customers, and his plant is on a much smaller scale than most provincial packing plants with only 16 employees, processing about 1,000-2,000 animals per year. What Deerview lacks in size, says Deering, it makes up for in customer service and value-added products.
On the customer service side of things, Deerview Meats goes that extra mile to give customers the quality meat products they pay for and deserve.
“I had animals slaughtered at various plants, but when I left there is always the question: Is this my meat? So we made a decision, we don’t make as much money as other facilities because we put more red tape on our table. We yield test every animal. Because that producer doesn’t know what we are doing, we have to be transparent and put everything on paper. We want the customer to know what we did and how we did it,” says Deering.
Deering describes the value-added component of his business as his “passion.”
“With any business, you have to have more than one iron in the fire,” he says. “If you are too focused on one thing, and there is a hiccup in that marketplace, you really are in trouble… When you go somewhere like our place and there are 40 flavours of sausage, that makes for a real, bold, big presence. I wanted to fill that market. We are always trying something new and different.”
Deering says he also consciously tries to gear the retail side of his business toward today’s busy family on the go.
“We have a different kind of consumer out there today,” confirms Deering. “When my parents grew up, we had a full meal for dinner and supper. Now, we have a society that eats on the run. We are mobile eaters now. You grab some of our sausage and some perogies, you are into supper in 25-35 minutes. We are catering to that mobile family or eater.”
Deering says it’s also important part of his company’s mandate to give back to the local community as much as it can. Deerview Meats has particularly made a determined effort to do outreach programs with local 4-H clubs on this front.
“When these kids are raising these calves so much focus goes onto that calf that wins Grand Champion, Reserve Champion or Rate-of-Gain Champion, but that really isn’t what the kids are doing. That’s an event on a day, but that’s not the snapshot of the little business plan this young 4-H participant had.
“This 4-H participant has invested money in a product. Has built this little business, and then he’s going to market it. That marketing brands the 4-H name, but it also effects how they have repeat customers who want these cattle.
“So what Chris and I wanted to do was build some emphasis around what that really means.”
To this end, Deerview Meats sponsors clubby-club awards for “Best Carcass,” and teaches 4-H participants to recognize quality meat in an animal when they see it with regular carcass classes at the company’s plant.
“We put some value on the table,” states Deering.
“What we did, for every single club, was we want to identify a winner. So even if the winner is a double A plus, there will be a winner out of that.
“We want these kids to work really hard to build the best carcass for the consumer. So we award a cash prize and a plaque for the best carcass in each club… Then we took it to the next level. We wanted a Grand Champion carcass as well amongst all these clubs.”
Deerview Meats also believes firmly in going that extra mile to help out its customers. Later this spring, for example, Deerview Meats will officially launch its “Meat Wagon,” a mobile slaughter and testing van which will come out to ranches with lamed or wounded animals in need of euthanization.
“We always have those animals that are injured that cannot be transported,” explains Deering. “What we did, is we designed a mobile unit where I will come to the farm or ranch and I will euthanize the animal right there.
“We have the option to do a full ante-mortem and a post-mortem at the plant. We have a veterinarian that’s on staff with us; so we have added that as another service we provide.”
Recently Deerview Meats made headlines in southeast Alberta for stepping up to help slaughter animals on one local ranch heavily affected by the bovine TB quarantine. They also regularly work with the Medicine Hat and District Food Bank and other local charitable organizations to provide quality protein to those in need.
“In cases like these, we donate our slaughtering and the disposal costs, which takes an entire day,” explains Deering. “The charitable organization we are processing the meat for is responsible for the cutting and wrapping costs. So it’s a good deal for everyone involved. The three parties together get this protein to the people.”
By providing good customer service, great value-added products, and working closely with the local ag. community to obtain quality product, Deerview Meats has found the formula for great success in the meat-packing industry. The skies the limit going forward, says Deering.
“You come here for quality,” states Deering. “In the big processing plants, from when the animal starts into the plant live to where the person at the end of the line evaluates the quality, there are hundreds and hundreds of people between A and B.
“Here, we want the customer to know what we did and how we did it. You are always going to get a steer less than a year old, and the best meat we can provide.”