One Earth expands through Ont. organic meat deal

The company that bills itself as the biggest corporate farming operation in Canada has extended its reach outside the Prairies by buying a Toronto-area organic meat producer and processor.

Saskatoon-based One Earth Farms announced Tuesday it has bought Beretta Farms of Etobicoke, Ont., for an undisclosed amount of cash and One Earth shares.

Other terms of the deal were not released, except that co-founder Mike Beretta will join One Earth Farms’ executive committee with the title of chief operating officer.

Beretta’s main farm at King City, north of Toronto, is an 800-acre operation producing organic grains, hay, vegetables and greenhouse greens. The company also runs beef cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, turkeys, chickens, and laying hens and is certified by Organic Crop Producers and Processors (OCPP), the Ontario arm of Pro-Cert Organic.

The operation, founded in 1993 by Mike and Cynthia Beretta at Wingham, Ont. and relocated to King City in 1999, has built up a brand of fresh beef, poultry, deli products and meals, sold mainly in the Toronto and Vancouver markets through national grocery chains and organic retailers, with buyers including Whole Foods, Longo’s and Loblaws.

Beretta also markets through direct home delivery and a specialty catering operation providing meals to professional athletes and corporate clients, and sells high-protein snacks under the Last Rep and Protein Puck brand names.

Beretta’s meat suppliers have expanded offsite include a "family of farms" that raise animals by "the same methods and standards to which Mike and Cynthia are committed."

"The Beretta Farms supply chain and consumer brands perfectly complement the One Earth Farms source of beef," an organically raised herd of over 17,000 animals, One Earth CEO Larry Ruud said in Tuesday’s release.

"With Mike and Cynthia remaining actively involved in the day-to-day operation of the business, this combination gives One Earth Farms an integrated business model and broadens our reach from the farm to the end consumer, where there is increasing interest in naturally raised meats, food traceability and best practices in animal care."

One Earth Farms, founded in 2009 and now about 60 per cent owned by Sprott Resource Corp., runs farming and ranch operations in Saskatchewan and Alberta, largely on land leased from First Nations in the two provinces.

One Earth’s goal for 2011 was to expand to grow grains and oilseeds on 150,000 acres of cultivated farmland and to lease about 100,000 acres of pasture to boost its cattle herd to about 22,000 head.

"The fit between the Beretta brand, our customer base of prestigious retailers and the organic and natural cattle supply of One Earth Farms make this joint entity an ideal platform for growth," Mike Beretta said Tuesday in One Earth’s release.

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