New on-farm meat shop near Miami not swayed by regulation

The Williments say attitude is key to getting such ventures off the ground

It was a combination of pragmatism and philosophy that prompted Wayne and Colette Williment to set out a year ago to build an on-farm meat shop.

Wayne had farmed organically and raised grass-fed beef for over 18 years, while Colette brought her background in meat cutting to the enterprise.

Looking for a way to diversify their farm and new ways to market their own beef, the couple also saw a need for a closer-to-home facility to provide services for other farmers.

They opened the doors to Hilltop Meats on their Miami-area farm last September after extensive renovations to an existing farm building, and now operate an on-farm, government-inspected food-handling facility specializing in custom cutting, wrapping of beef, bison, pork, lamb as well as wild game.

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The Williments are also permitted to do on-farm slaughters and work with local vet clinics to harvest injured animals that cannot be transported. Under direction of inspectors, they retrofitted a van to transport animals to the meat shop.

Deciding to get into this business wasn’t done easily nor quickly, says the couple, who spent months mulling over a business plan.

“Should we, or shouldn’t we. We toyed with it awhile,” said Colette Williment. “We realized there’d be a big expense.”

“It doubled (what they initially anticipated),” says Wayne Williment, adding that there were costs they never anticipated, like a $3,500 weigh scale, and the stainless steel sausage stuffer they needed because the cast iron one the family had used to make their own sausage wouldn’t do.

Now in full operation, Hilltop Meats is equipped with a cooler designed and permitted to handle both inspected and non-inspected meat as well as wild game. The meat shop is equipped with a commercial band saw, grinder, vacuum packer, and the required number of stainless steel sinks. There are also stainless steel tables and a rail system to unload and handle carcasses.

Infrastructure brought from other plants had to be custom sandblasted, and only food-grade paint was allowed, says Wayne. Floor linoleum runs six inches up the walls.

“Some of the building requirements caught me off guard,” says Wayne. “I’m not saying they were a big deal. They just caught me off guard.”

Construction of Hilltop Meats began last spring.

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The costs were steep, says the couple who declined to share the full price tag for the venture. “Let’s just say we’ve got enough invested in this that it essentially has to work,” says Wayne.

But by taking a methodical and careful approach to understanding the regulations, learning from others, and working closely with provincial inspectors who guided them through the process, they’ve now got the farm-based business they long dreamed of operating.

“I think there’s two attitudes you can have,” says Wayne. “You can either try and buck the system or go with it. We want this to work, so we have to go with the system. Whether we agreed with everything or not really doesn’t matter.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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