Penokean Hills Farms (est. in 2005) was born out of the desire to grow what had become a declining (agricultural) industry in Algoma. Its original intent was to find ways to preserve the classical way of raising cattle, to be good stewards of both land and animal, and to offer a premium product to the end consumers. We wanted a product that could purchased directly from area farms and bridge the food chain gap on a local level.
Much thought was put into how this value chain could work together and have an impact on the community. We needed to think about crop farming, cattle producers, cattle processing, wholesale buyers and retail consumers. The end goal was to create a value chain system that could be beneficial throughout this chain, while delivering a quality product and hold to an environmentally sustainable mindset.
Animal Husbandry & Stewardship
Penokean Hills Farms holds to the practice of raising their animals all-naturally. There are no added-hormones or necessary antibiotics given to our cattle. In minimal cases where an animal is suffering from a condition which requires treatment, we do treat that condition in order to help him/her live a better life (just as we would our own kids!). These animals however, are marketed differently as a result.
The cattle are raised on pasture and free to roam the fields and hills as they desire to. Towards the end of their life-cycle they are introduced to a finishing farm where they are also introduced a strict custom ratio of grains to help keep the meat tender and flavourful. We absolutely believe that a stress-free, well lived life is what we want for our cattle and its also has a tremendous affect in the quality of the end product that is consumed.
Uniquely Crafted Diet
One of the ways in which Penokean Hills Farms wanted to distinguish itself was to introduce a feeding program that would be crafted to all its own cattle. The reason would actually be three-fold. First we wanted to create a healthier diet for the cattle; second was that we wanted to be able to grow our finishing grains locally; and thirdly we wanted something that would translate to the consumer eating experience in a positive way. The result of that research was a pea-based finishing diet. Field peas had a higher concentration level of natural proteins than the traditionally corn-fed diet (which is found to have a higher concentration of sugary starches). The field-pea based diet also made for a meat that was earthier in flavour than its corn-fed beef counterparts and retained tenderness and flavour in the beef without sacrificing other important carcass traits. The fact that it could naturally grow in Northern Ontario without issue made for a really great result in crafting a healthy diet regime for our cattle.
Direct Farm-to-Table Approach
Part of what we love as farmers is to be able to build relationships with our customers. We are proud of what we do and look to be transparent in all aspects of the process. Its enjoyable to share our knowledge of farming with others and answer questions so that people can appreciate knowing where their meat comes from and how its been treated. With the chefs we work with, having a direct connection allows us a unique opportunity to tailor orders to their needs and look at ways we can be innovative in the future. It allows restaurants and butcher shops to be able to share the local story of Penokean Hills Farms to their guests and consumers as well!
Breeding Program & Carcass Traits
A quality and consistent end product is invaluable in today’s premium beef marketplace. Part of what makes the Penokean program so unique is the attention given to our cattle’s genetics and makeup. Most cattle traits such as temperament and carcass marbling are very much hereditary. Through genetic research, ultrasound technology and ancestral records, we are constantly working with our farmers on selecting and improving our herds for end consumer satisfaction. We breed our cattle for:
Intramuscular Marbling to enhance the flavour of the beef.
Cutability so the flavour can be enjoyed without excess fat trim
Growth Rate so that cattle are harvested at an optimal time for the combination of tenderness and flavour
Finishing Ability so that cuts are at a consumer friendly size
Temperament such that cattle are a pleasure to work with and the cattle do not get stressed, adding to the tenderness of the beef
Calving Ease & Milk as research has demonstrated that a good start in life results in better carcass characteristics