Beretta Family Farms: ‘Where the grass is greener’
By: Mudeeha Yousaf
Like the saying goes, you are what you eat; but what if what you are eating is pesticide ridden-food that causes your body a lifetime of harm after a moment on your lips. Beretta Family Farms – a family-run business committed to providing quality meat and products for the modern health-conscious consumer – challenges the notion that healthy life choices cannot be mixed with convenience, and provide their organic products to the Canadian food industry. Head-quartered in Etobicoke, Ontario, the business relishes in its strict Canadian heritage and environmentally sound practices to deliver the experience of a small-town family farm with the qualifications of a large corporation.
Seldom do we find people that put the needs of the greater good and turn it into their life’s practice. Cynthia Beretta, one of the founders of the family-operated farm, started the business over 22 years ago along with husband Michael, not anticipating the growth and success it would reach. “[We were] tree huggers that wanted to grow our own food and eat organically while making a difference in our own lives. It was purely personal reasons about how we wanted to live and raise our family,” Cynthia reminisces. The couple had high hopes in providing healthier alternatives to the public, and began their journey by selling their products to friends and family in Huron County, Ontario. The operation grew and the duo astutely settled into an 800-acre land in King Township, where the business was able to offer their small-town charm to a larger urban demographic.
It wasn’t until Whole Foods – the world’s largest retailer of organic food products – came to Toronto that the farm was able to be solidified, and consequentially expand the business. “Most Canadian grocers realized that organics is something we have to catch up on… it’s not a fad and isn’t going away,” advocates Cynthia. “[Whole Foods] pushed us to be better at our business. We grew our meat portion, raised more live-stock on our farm and contacted other farmers to grow for us under the Beretta banner.” The company supports local farmers, and when consumers buy a Beretta product not only are they supporting the company itself but also a network of about 200 small family farms that grow specific for the company under contract – holding true to its name and working unanimously as a family of farms.
The demand for organics led the market to grow, and consumers are slowly but surely becoming more educated about what is going into their meat. “Ignorance is bliss when you don’t know what’s going into your body, but as soon as you become enlightened as to what’s in your food, it makes you question everything and I think that’s what’s happening out there as a whole,” says Cynthia.
Boasting several divisions under one umbrella company, Beretta is an organic meat retail company servicing consumers directly, a wholesaler to grocery stores, an ingredient supplier to third parties, a source of clean protein for athletes, and a full-service catering company, providing gourmet catering for a variety of clients including Tridel and the beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. The company emphasizes raising meat that is Canadian, grass fed, naturally raised with no added hormones or antibiotics – a concept lost on most of the larger food chains that sacrifice health for affordability.
“When there’s a connection to what you’re eating, knowing the process of how it ended up on your plate, you feel good about it and will probably be willing to spend a bit more.” The biggest challenge says Cynthia, is building supply to meet the demand that is out there, and to convert more farmers to grow organic and make that change in becoming antibiotic free producers. In addition to offering a certified organic line, the establishment provides an antibiotic, GMO free line to meet the huge growth in the hormone-free movement.
Beretta customers can sleep peacefully knowing the Farm is certified organic by Canadian national standards and all of their slaughterhouses are inspected regularly. Also, their natural beef program claims are CFIA approved, becoming one of the only approved programs for the natural raising of meat in Canada. With everything said and done, however, there is still a noticeable difference in the national industry as compared to the European market that sees more awareness yet little experience in importing Canadian beef, which is what the company wishes to break into in the near future. They are in the midst of expanding into a federal entrée line and their federal burger will be launched across Canada in the Spring. 2014 will bring with it a new line of meal replacement snacks, and an expansion into international markets.
With outlets such as the Food Network and modern cooking shows shedding light to the industry, food is becoming more “sexy… people are cooking more and its almost like food porn. People are taking a more active role in what they eat – and people can call and speak to us. We’re very hands on which has helped to grow our business,” Cynthia says. “I am a Beretta but I also believe in it… it’s not selling the product but talking about what we do.” Today, the Ontario-native business shelves its grass-fed, organic and natural meat products at major grocers such as Whole Foods, Loblaw’s and Longo’s.
For more information on Beretta Farms, visit https://www.berettafamilyfarms.com/