Having a return customer walk through the doors of VG Meats is what the Van Groningen’s hope for on a daily basis. Having that customer return means they need to continue to focus on producing a superior beef product that has been years in the making.
Meet Cory and Heidi Van Groningen, partners in the family beef business that starts with a cow-calf operation and ends with a customer walking out of one of their two retail locations with a beef product that their own abattoir has processed. Cory and Heidi are the 2012 Outstanding Young Farmers in Ontario and say, “our success is built on information from calf to carcass that we can use.“ According to Cory from their farm located in Haldimand, “when you have information like meat tenderness and growth efficiency, you can make better breeding and feeding decisions that will translate into a superior product.”
Having good data and information is what Cory and Heidi name as one of three important management tools that are helping them to be successful. A second is a continuing focus on the customer and the quality of the meat. Cory says the beef production system is a long process when you go from time of breeding to the time of slaughter. “When you are just a meat packer, progress is daunting. When you are a beef producer, it is hard to get information about anything other than yield. When you are both, you can ensure the whole chain focuses on the end product, and looks at more than simple beef yield.” Cory and Heidi also note that by having the retail store, they are able to talk to their customer, dispelling beef production myths while ensuring they are always producing a product that is in high demand. “Consumers are a great source of encouragement, letting us know that the last steak they bought was the best one they’d ever had,” says Heidi. “It means we are heading in the right direction.”
The Van Groningen’s also use their knowledge to help move the entire industry forward, being involved with organizations like Beef Improvement Opportunities (BIO), the Haldimand Cattlemen’s Association and the Ontario Independent Meat Processors.
The third important management tool that Cory and Heidi point out, is their focus on family. The operation is owned and operated by themselves, Cory’s three brothers and his parents. According to Cory, “There is an extra level of trust with work getting done when you are part of a family business.” All partners have their own responsibilities on the farm and operation, “so no one is stepping on someone else’s toes,” says Cory. “ If a ball gets dropped, we know who needs to pick that up.” When decisions need to be made, everyone comes together and focuses. The question they always ask themselves before making a change is how will this effect our customer and our product. It is also very important for Cory and Heidi that everyone is able to sit down for supper after working together all day, which is exactly what is happening.
The future of VG Meats looks bright for Cory and Heidi. “Demand continues to grow at the same time that we continue to focus on improving an already great product.” They also continue to work with neighbouring beef farmers who supply about half of the beef to VG Meats. “We can work with those farmers, supply the carcass information to them and help them produce a superior product as well,” notes Cory.
This video was produced in 2011 by the Ontario Independent Meat Processors and gives another look at the VG Meats operation.
You can also learn more about the operation at VGmeats.ca