Business & Policy
30 minutes with a Natural Meats Salesman
By Leslie Ballentine
By Leslie Ballentine
Kevin, a twenty-something former manager for a commercial fitness centre, arrived at my front door one day this summer offering a free sample of beef in exchange for letting him tell me about the home-delivered natural meat he was selling. I was about to do the “sorry, I’m making dinner” response. But, when Kevin launched into his pitch about how his company’s “chicken, beef and pork don’t contain all the toxic chemicals, GMOs and antibiotics and hormones like regular meat,” I knew I wanted to hear more. Keeping in mind that Kevin has, by his own admission, only ever been on one farm — the beef farm that supplies his company — and that he has only worked for the company for six-months, my first questions were about the farms that supply his company.
What he told me was that all three Ontario farms that supply the chicken, beef and pork respectively are free range small family farms. When I asked how three farms could produce enough to supply families in cities stretching from London to Ottawa he really couldn’t provide a convincing answer other than these three “small natural farms” were big enough to supply 3,500 families with meat packages starting at 190 lbs.
He did encourage me to check out the three farm profile videos that are featured on the company site.
The chicken farmer was his favourite. Having recently met him, but not having been on his farm, Kevin explained that these chickens were free range in the barn. “The chicken farmer goes above and beyond,” Kevin informed me, “like he doubles the airflow to bring in healthy fresh air and no one else does that.” The 72-day-old capons raised with no drugs or hormones are also given double the space that is required for free range chicken, I was told. The grain fed birds receive no animal by-products and Kevin said the farmer “only purchases really high quality feed not the cheap stuff that contains high calories and no nutrients.”
The farm also does the processing onsite and, according to Kevin, does no processing with water it is only chilled in cold air, unlike other processors who say it is air chilled but still use water. “So unlike the air chilled chicken you buy at Loblaws, even though ours is a bit more expensive, you aren’t losing 20 per cent to shrink when you go to cook it.” Describing a video he saw of the facility, Kevin said he was really impressed; “it is super clean with everyone dressed in white, the air chill room shows all the chickens being hung properly, and there are three plant inspectors there 24 hours a day. So not only is it safe, it tastes amazing.” Adding emphatically, “I can’t say enough about the quality because you just don’t get this anywhere.”
And then we got to the sales clincher: kids and their health.
Kevin truly believes he is helping families. “Kids really like our food because kids have a better sense for healthy food, he explained, and that, most of all, is what is so rewarding to me.”
Kevin blames his health problems on the food he ate growing up. Food in the grocery store is a big health problem in the long term with all the sugar and salt and chemicals, he said. And, according to this former fitness centre manager, traditional meat is a big cause of health problems in kids.
“You are obviously smarter and more interested in the farms and quality than most,” he said to me, “so I talk to families in a different way than I am talking to you. But what I say to families is this. Do you know what is in your meat? Do you know that every single piece of meat that Loblaws sells, unless it says otherwise, is grown with antibiotics? These are sick and inflamed animals and the only reason they are alive is because they are fed sub-therapeutic antibiotics and you’re feeding this to your kids for only two bucks a pound less than what you would spend with us? It’s just not worth it.”
He also tells potential customers, “People complain that we are so much more expensive than No Frills but you are also losing 20 per cent of your meat when you buy there and it’s not air chilled, it’s not free range, it’s full of drugs, it’s full of antibiotics, it’s fed the cheapest stuff imaginable and you’re going to feed that to your kids and then they are going to be a statistic.”
No wonder he gets 40 per cent of families to sign on.
Here’s the point: Until agriculture can get ahead of the marketers in educating the public, the public will continue to be unfairly misled.