In any industry, ‘longevity’ and ‘family owned’ are two terms that are increasingly going the way of the dinosaurs. With local abattoirs closing down each year, the Canadian farming industry is no exception, making Newmarket Meat Packers an anomaly.
The Ontario-based business has been bringing locally grown meats to kitchen tables across the province since 1968. Partners Nick D'Elia Sr. and Gino Plastino initially started the business selling beef and pork. Now 46 years later, Newmarket Meat’s commitment to evolving their business practices has enabled them to thrive in the changing landscape of Ontario meat.
New immigration patterns in the province have caused the sheep industry in southwestern Ontario to grow by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. Newmarket Meats have adapted their offerings to meet (or meat, in Newmarket’s case) the demand for local lamb and veal thanks to a grant from the Greenbelt Fund.
The meat processing company used their funding to purchase a delivery truck and a rollstock machine, a unit that deprives packaged meat of any oxygen, thus eliminating bacteria and extending the product’s shelf life. A longer shelf life means Newmarket Meat products are now a more viable option for grocery stores.
Until recently, most lamb sold in Ontario was imported from halfway around the world, coming primarily from New Zealand and Australia. Thanks to a new partnership between Newmarket Meat and Longo’s, consumers can now purchase top quality local lamb and veal grown in their own backyard.
Newmarket Meat Packers Coordinator Maggie Pearce knows that without involvement from the Fund, her company would have struggled to make the changes necessary to keep up with the increase in demand for lamb and veal in Ontario.
“Our industry has been hit hard,” Pearce explains. “There have been a lot of abattoirs close and a lot of small producers have gone out of business. What we’re doing is giving our sector sustainability.”
Longos’ hands-on approach with customers has been a huge asset in helping Newmarket Meat and their partnering local producers ensure they are giving the consumer exactly what they want. Customer feedback gathered by front-line deli workers at Longo’s is shared with Newmarket Meat. This communication chain puts Newmarket Meat “…in a position where we can report back to the producers and give them vital information to help them with genetics and help them with raising prime lamb” says Pearce.
The added benefit of consumer feedback helps all parties involved, even creating new jobs. “[Communication] helps producers increase their flock and make more money and everyone along the chain is more profitable,” says Pearce. “When you’re more profitable everybody grows.”
Transparency is a key part of Newmarket Meat’s success, says Pearce, adding “Eventually right at the counter they [the consumer] will be able to see what farm that meat came from. They’ll be buying their lamb roast and they’ll know where that meat came from.”
By keeping the end consumer in mind with everything they do, Pearce says that Newmarket Meat Packers will continue to work with Longo stores, as well as additional grocery chains, to ensure the needs of Ontarians are being met.
“For any company it’s a heavy lift”, says Pearce when asked about adding local lamb and veal to their product offerings. With the purchase of new equipment, it was a lift Newmarket Meat Packers were able to perform. “What the Greenbelt did was push us ahead probably five years.”