It only happens in the movies, doesn’t it? Young professional with a great income gives up the big city, with its commute and urban stresses, for a quaint, country life of raising chickens and churning butter. Except that’s the true life story of 35-year-old Jeff Senger.
With his wife Heather (a teacher) and their four daughters (all under nine), Jeff left a lucrative accounting career and the gleaming towers of Calgary for the tiny hamlet of Sangudo, Alberta, population 325.
“We wanted something better. We wanted an enriched life,” says Jeff, 35.
Like many small rural communities across Canada, Sangudo — located about an hour west of Edmonton — was quietly shrinking. An aging population and out-migration of the young forced the community to strategize on ways to save the town from extinction.
They formed a community-owned investment co-operative — a group of nearby residents each investing small amounts — and helped Jeff and Kevin Meier, 39, buy the town’s dying abattoir.
Two and a half years on, Sangudo Custom Meats employs six full-time positions, operating one kill day per week, and delivering custom cuts of naturally raised and organic meat to some of Edmonton’s best restaurants, and reviving Sangudo one steak at a time.
And business is growing. Ever since the recall of E. coli tainted beef from Alberta’s XL Foods slaughterhouse in September 2012 — the largest meat recall in Canadian history — Sangudo Custom Meats has been “flat-out busy for 18 weeks, and booked ahead two months,” says Jeff. Sales are up at all the small plants he knows.
The recall also raised serious questions about the wisdom of processing 4,000 cows per day at XL, or roughly 3,000 steaks per minute. “The scale is their weakness,” says Jeff. Despite all “the best people, the best technologies and the best intentions, that scale means the number of human minutes per unit of food is so minimal.”
In contrast, Jeff points out, “There are three of us working a kill day, processing 15 cows with one provincial inspector. We have so many eyes and ears on each square inch of that carcass.”
And then there are the relationships. “I shake the farmer’s hand when he drops off his live cow, and I shake his hand when he comes to pick up his steak,” says Jeff. “There is a trust … and responsibility at our small level because if he gets sick off the steak, I’ll hear about it and lose my business.”
Such small-scale processing helps local farmers and the beef is more nutritious, Jeff says.
“Ninety-nine per cent of animals (we process) are grown on farms by local area residents that would generally have no option but to sell them into an auction situation,” says Jeff, “where they become accreted at a confined finishing feed lot, and go into the industrial food chain.”
But now farms around Sangudo can let their animals naturally graze on pasture.
“They live with the animals and finish the animals on a small scale in their backyards,” says Jeff. “We know what it was fed, when it was vaccinated and with what, even the condition of the pasture it came off.”

Article taken from the Edmonton Journal
The following videos show Jeff in action but please note they contain graphic images that are not suitable for everyone, so don’t watch it unless you want to see how a animals gets killed and processed


All videos are by Kevin Kossowan
Kevin's site documents what is happening in the world of food. Kevin's focus is on producing a web channel [kevinTV] about the regional food scene: growing, gleaning, hunting, foraging, fishing, preserving, connecting with local farmers – that kind of thing.  Check out his amazing web site here


Nancy Cheyne said...

Jeff and Heather - WOW you two (and 4! kids) have come a long way from NACA & EKC days. Pics are great - you two haven't changed a bit. Hopefully soon I will catch you at one of the markets. Would love to see you guys again. Love Cowboy's Mom.

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