Ontario Corn Fed Beef is naturally great tasting! But what exactly is Ontario Corn Fed Beef (OFCB)? Why is it able to produce great tasting meat? Who are the people and communities involved that make this program such a success? How do they maintain the consistent quality of this beef?
I, MoVernie, is as curious as you, wanting to find out more about our food sources. As more people prefer to “Shop local, eat local and support local“. It’s part of my mission to gather more information and share KEY content with all of you about Ontario Corn Fed Beef. By being on the MOVE on beefy farm tour, visiting feedlots, cattle farms, restaurants and grocery stores that serve Ontario Corn Fed Beef, I will be able to find these answers. In this MoVernie x Ontario Corn Fed Beef BLOG series, you will be able to understand how Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program operates in various aspects from different parts of the agricultural industries.
Follow my MoVernie Beefy Journey!
We, as foodies have often talk about “Eat local, Shop local and Support local” but many of us just don’t get the chance or really take the time to really find out where our food comes from.
I was very fortunate that I was invited by the Ontario Corn Fed Beef (@ONCornFedBeef) on an Exclusive VIP Tour to visit some of the Ontario Farms to more about their industry. To me, this tour meant a lot as I have never visited a farm in Canada before (Yes, crazy right?). During this tour, I was joined by 3 other amazing Social Media Influencers on this journey. Their names are Alexa Clark (@AlexaClark); Isabelle Boucher (@Izzbell) and Kevin Lynch (@ClosetCooking). Make sure you follow them on Twitter so you can join along and check out their perspectives on this beefy tour journey.
Most often, people like to show visitors the farm-to-fork sequence. This time, it’s different, it’s in reverse order. The Ontario Corn Fed Beef team wanted to show us the “fork-to-farm” sequence as they think it would be an interesting order from our normal grocery shopping and restaurant experiences, tracing back to the farms that raise and feed these cows.
So…just a little bit of history of what is Ontario Corn Fed Beef. Ontario Corn Fed Beef is basically Ontario farms that feed their cows mainly with corn. This Ontario Corn-Fed Beef program was launched in June of 2001 as farmers want to expand its market in Ontario and also increase its presence and profile in Ontario. I got to say, we are used to eating beef from Calgary or Texas, it’s important to know that our very own province of Ontario also produces good quality beef. So, if we really want to eat local, support local, Ontario Corn Fed Beef is the way to show your support. And not only that, Ontario Corn Fed Beef also produces great tasting meat, the corn fed process gives the beef its rich and full flavour. And with its strict quality assurance program in place, it ensures that only Canada AA and AAA beef is used, providing consistent tender and juicy cuts for every beef that it sells to the consumers.
Alrighty, let’s get the beefy tour journey started. Welcome to my MoVernie adventures and I hope you enjoy this journey and learn and appreciate more about our farms in Ontario.
The 4 Social Media Influencers all met up at the Yorkdale Mall, it’s a great meeting point for everyone. Representatives from Ontario Corn Fed Farm, John and Good in Every Grain, Meaghan were also coming along on the beefy tour. Just a little bit about Good in Every Grain (@GoodinGrain), it’s an organization that represents and promote our grain farmers in Ontario. Since Ontario Corn Fed Beef consumes corn, both organizations work hand-in-hand with the beef and grain farmers to provide the best quality corn and beef to the consumers.
A nice comfy and air-conditioned mini-bus arrived and we all hopped on and our beefy tour began. We were heading up north towards Barrie, Ontario, as there are many farms that are situated up north. I have a buddy that I visit often and he lives in Barrie, so I am quite familiar with the area. Basically, it’s about an hour drive from downtown Toronto, so it’s not such a bad drive. If you ever go for scenic cave or going towards the Wasaga Beach, you are basically heading in the same direction to Barrie.
I really enjoyed the bus ride as we got to know more about each other. It’s my first time meeting these other Influencers as well as learning more about Ontario Corn Fed Beef and Good in Every Grain from the representatives. During the ride, a few things already stick to my minds and I learned something new already.
Did you know… that when you purchase beef at your nearest grocery store that the beef that you purchased are not necessarily coming from Ontario? Call me naïve or something but for some reason, when I buy beef from my grocery store, I automatically assume that I am purchasing beef from Ontario farms coz I thought Ontario farms raise cows and since we live so close, I would assume they are selling Ontario beef. That’s not the case, many grocery stores sell beef from Calgary or Texas, two of the well-known beef producing regions. So…I learned from John that if I want to make sure that I am buying and supporting Ontario beef, I have to look at the labels and check where it is from. In particular, if I want to purchase Ontario Corn Fed Beef, the only grocery chain that exclusively sells them is Loblaws. The reason? Loblaws is the grocery chain that provide its 100% support when the Ontario farmers first introduced this Corn Fed Program back in 2001, so the support by Loblaws play an important role to the success of the Ontario Corn Fed Program that they are having right now. And of course, about 125 other individual butchers also support the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program. Thus, they also get exclusive rights to sell Ontario Corn Fed Beef.
And did you know… that 95% of the corn being produced on our Ontario corn fields are being used to raise farm animals such as cows and other animals? With only 5% are for human consumption. I was quite shocked when I heard that coz I thought all the corn fields we see everywhere are for us to eat.
Beefy Tour 1st Stop – Zehrs Markets
After an hour drive, we had finally arrived in Barrie, Ontario. Our 1st stop was to visit one of the newest Zehrs grocery market. In case many peeps are not familiar with Zehrs, it’s a supermarket chain that is part of the Loblaw Companies. If you live in the downtown Toronto core, me included, you will not have seen any Zehrs as this grocery chain mainly situated in the outer suburbs area.
As I walked into the Zehrs, I was impressed! It’s nice and big, clean and modern. There was a sushi bar section, fresh bakery and many cool sections. We were greeted by the Assistant General Manager as well as the dietician. Yes, you heard it right, there is a dietician at Zehrs to help assist customers with questions about their eating habits and provide them with nutritional information. That shows you how supermarkets are being open-minded and adapting the shift in dietary trends.
The staff guided us to “The Butcher” area. We were greeted by Stevie V, who manages the meat section. He told us any Loblaws owned grocery stores are the only stores that sells Ontario Corn Fed Beef. In the packaged meat section, you may see beef from Calgary, Texas and Ontario. But for the fresh meat section, all the beef are ONLY coming from Ontario Corn Fed Beef. He said many of its customers enjoyed the flavour and the taste of the Ontario Corn Fed Beef, and they felt good about supporting local farmers. The best part? The customers enjoyed the specific cut or order they could customize with the fresh beef.
After checking out “The Butcher” section, the Assistant Manager, Dave asked us if we want to check out the “Moo” section. We were curious to what he was referring to and as you all know, I love surprises, so we said “Yes!”. Apparently, any new Zehrs stores have these cool sound effects with its produce. When I opened the fridge door of the milk section, there is a “Moo!” sound, giving it a cool experience. Some may think it’s scary (especially for kids) but for me and many others, we think it’s a cool idea, just added some fun element during our grocery shopping. I hope more of these sound effects will be available for more customers in other grocery stores.
MoVernie Fun Fact: Did you know that every time you open the milk fridge door that a “Moo” sound happens. But what’s interesting is that, there are different versions of the “Moo”. So every time you open the fridge door, you will hear a different Moo sound. That’s awesome!
Beefy Tour 2nd Stop – Georgian Downs Race Track
After the wonderful tour of the Zehrs, we needed to grab lunch. We arrived at Georgian Downs Race Track, which is located close the Barrie area. It’s a casino with slots machines and also a horse race track. But this time, we are not there for that. Instead, we were headed to the restaurant located inside the casino to taste Ontario Corn Fed Beef.
Many Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) restos serve up Ontario Corn Fed Beef – many do, but not all of them – so I encourage you to look at the menu at your local OLG to look for the logo and then ask your server to confirm. Since Georgian Down is owned by OLG, it makes total sense for us to grab lunch there. Mind you, as we walked pass the slot machines towards the restaurant, there were tons of people already trying their luck on the slots.
We were guided to a special VIP dining room. We got our cold beverages and we ordered our Ontario Corn Fed steak. We were provided with the 10oz AAA bone-in striploin steak. I like my steak in medium rare as I want it to be juicy and tender and with little redness still in the meat. I also coupled it with mashed potatoes and vegetables.
MoVernie Question: How do you normally like your steak?
After a short wait, our lunch had arrived! And the steak looked great. As I made my first cut to the meat, I could see the juice flowing out. It was a perfect cook at my requested medium rare.
Mashed potatoes was in generous portion. Love the potato skins mixed in with the mashed, that’s the way I like it. The veggies were nicely grilled. And my beloved eggplants were part of the veggies. Let me tell you, most restos would not serve eggplants as it isn’t really for everyone. But I love eggplant so I was super happy when this resto served it.
Beefy Tour 3rd Stop – Cattle Feedlot
After a nice lunch, we hopped back onto the comfy mini-bus and headed to Schaus Land and Cattle, which consists the cattle feedlot and grain mill. This is the most exciting part for me as I have never visited a farm before in Canada. Also, I am always curious on the farm conditions for cattle and everything, so I was anxious to see how the entire cattle feedlot works.
As we arrived to the cattle feedlot, we were introduced to the lovely family and his team of staff. Paul is the manager for this particular feedlot. It puts smiles on my face that family-run businesses are still happening in Ontario. Don’t get me wrong, large corporations have its own way of operations but having family traditions, the human life stories and the local communities are important to me.
First, we went inside the grain mill. Corn makes up 80% of the food and it mixes with other grains before it is being fed to the cattle in the last 100 days they are there.
These are the product of the grain after passing through the machine.
Then, we walked outside walking towards the cattle feedlots. Along the way, we saw an open field, there were about 50-70 cattle. I asked why they were outside. Paul said that some cattle prefer to be outside as they may not like to stay inside the feedlots. Even though they were outside, we could see most cattle were hanging out close together. Paul said that the cattle love to be in a herd. So, even if there are tons of open space, they pretty much prefer to be closer together. Meanwhile, some other cattle prefers to stay inside the feedlots so they stay cooler and also avoiding the direct sun. Basically, the cattle has their choices of chilling inside or outside.
As I walked inside the feedlot, I could see all the cattle (hundreds of them) were placed in two separate ends of the feedlot. In the middle was the path for human beings to walk around and to put the corn grain for the cattle to eat. I could see all the cattle had tags near their ears, it’s the identification number on each of them so they could identify which farm they were from, their past records so if anything happens, they are able to trace the roots of the cows origin very quickly.
As I glanced around, all the cattle were chilling, some were eating the corn grains, some were just chilling. Many of them were nice and calm and Paul told me that’s the important thing in maintaining the cattle. When the cattle are in the calm state, that is the best way to raise them. And more importantly, from what I saw, the cows were in a spacious and peaceful setting. They weren’t jam like sardines as some media usually described the cattle farm as.
MoVernie Fun Fact: Did you know a number of cattle farms will raise and breed the cattle. Once they had grown in a certain size, they are being sold to feedlots like this one so they will be fed with corn mixture. Thus, it’s extremely important for the feedlot to be able to identify the origin of these cattle. With its top notch identifying system, they are able to retrieve such important key information.
Beefy Tour 4th Stop – Gilbrea Farm
After checking out the feedlot, it’s time to check out the Gilbrea Farm, located in Erin, Ontario, owned by Bob Wilson. The moment we met Bob and his daughter, you could tell Bob is a passionate farmer and he seemed to be a funny guy with a good sense of humour as well.
Gilbrea Farm is where they breed and raise cows. It’s the farm that gets the female cattle to mate and babies are born. They raise the cattle properly under their care so that they can sell them to the feedlot such as Schaus Land and Cattle for feeding with corn.
We hopped on the tractor with a long cagey hay wagon attached from the back. It was quite an experience. I enjoyed it very much. It was a bumpy ride but that’s the beauty of it. It was fun! As we moved into the open air, we saw a number of cattle with their babies. Some babies are just lying on the grass on their own as Bob said sometimes it’s safer for the babies to be lying on the grass where it’s a bit hidden from predators than following the mother around when the mother has to find food. Standing from the cagey wagon, I kind of felt like I was in the African Lion Safari.
MoVernie Fun Fact: Bob told us that there are many advanced technology being implemented in their day-to-day agriculture operations that can make their productivity much more efficient and making their lives a lot easier. For example, he can operate a tractor with a touch of his remote control or operating via Bluetooth on his smartphone. He can also retrieve the profile data on each individual cattle using his smartphone.
I guess he is no longer the typical “Old MacDonald have a farm” anymore. LOL
Final – MoVernie Impression of the Ontario Corn Fed Farms
Overall, I learned a lot from this Ontario Corn Fed Beef Tour. It impresses me the amount of hard work, the thoughts these farmers made, providing top quality of beef for us to consume. These are passionate people that are family-run businesses that passes on generation after generation. It’s nice to see that the farming industries are ever evolving and adapting to build a stronger and efficient program to sustain a healthy system that will help feed us and our future generations.
And most importantly, from what I saw, the cattle are being handled with care. The farmers treated the cattle with respect and provided them the best nutrients and conditions for them to grow and live.
The farming industries is a super solid community. The farmers are very social media savvy, many of them uses Twitter and that’s a common platform for the farmers to chat and share their knowledge with each other to understand the current weather conditions or the upcoming market price for cows and grain. I personally got a taste of their united Twitter communities as I got to chat with many of them via Twitter. Many of them followed my Twitter handle and began to provide me with their expertise and knowledge about their day-to-day operations. In fact, I had one farmer who offered to let me test drive his tractor if I ever come back to the Barrie area visiting more farms.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Ontario Corn Fed Beef and Good in Every Grain for their wonderful hospitality and inviting me for this Exclusive VIP Beefy Tour.
The Ontario Corn Fed Beef Tour was paid for by Ontario Corn Fed Beef. As always, all reviews and opinions are entirely my own. For more photos, tweets and videos check out #BeefyTour and on Twitter & Instagram!
I would like to emphasize that during this entire #BeefyTour, everything was transparent. We were allowed to ask any questions without any restrictions. We were allowed to explore many behind-the-scenes areas as well as the entire farm without any resistance. I appreciate the transparency and grateful that I can share valuable information with my followers with what I observed without any restrictions. This transparency is much appreciated and is important to me and my followers.
Also follow me on SnapChat @MoVernie or InstaStory @RealMoVernie for more interactive live-broadcast videos.
And MoVernie is outta here!