Whole Animal Butchery: What, Why, and Where

If you’re even a little bit conscious about what you eat, where it comes from, or how it gets to your table, you’re probably familiar with the latest clean-eating buzzwords: “organic”, “non-GMO”, “sugar-free”, “superfoods”, “probiotics”, “whole-grain”… and so on and so forth. With so much to read and learn, it can be tricky to distil what’s really important.

That’s what inspired us to share one of the simplest, yet most widely unknown processes to consider when you’re choosing fuel for your body: the art of butchering.

Where your food comes from and what happens before it gets to your plate is just as important as what you’re consuming, and taking the butchery process into account when you’re planning meals can help you be a more mindful consumer.

What

What we’re talking about is called whole animal butchering. This is an approach that cuts down on waste and hones in on the craft of butchering an animal, taking care to use every part to the best of its potential.

The diagram below shows the cuts of sections of lamb that correspond to the cuts of meat available after butchering:

SunGold | Chalkboard illustration of lamb cuts

(Bonus, this great little diagram is available on Etsy so you can show off just how much you love lamb.)

Looks familiar, right? The whole animal butchery process includes traditional cuts, but also yields cuts of meat consumers may not be familiar with. Unusual cuts bring with them an element of delight and excitement, which elevates dinnertime and opens up new recipe ideas and opportunities to create dishes that are memorable and unique.

Some of the cuts that come from a whole animal butchery process include what’s called “offals” – the organs and fancy meats including livers, hearts, and even heads.

That said, you can also expect to see expertly cut racks, legs, and loins that have gone through a careful butchery process so that once cooked, they are as delicious as they possibly can be. Each part can serve its own purpose, and using a whole animal technique involves understanding the value of the animal in its entirety, rather than just its individual parts.

Why

Here’s why we do it.

The fact of the matter is, a small family-owned butcher shop will never quite compare to a large-scale meat plant when it comes to the use of whole animal butchery (no matter how romantic a tiny, local shop might feel). This is due to the operational efficiency principles that plants like SunGold employ; it just doesn’t make sense from a business sense to waste any parts of the animal.

At SunGold, we’ve taken even greater strides to reduce any wasted product over the last few years.

Lamb meat plays a major role in many traditional diets, of which dishes often include parts like the lungs, testicles, head, heart and more. By offering these cuts to the Canadian market, we are embracing the cultural diversity in our country and catering to their dietary needs. We also understand and greatly appreciate the cost and effort that our farmers put into raising each of the animals that comes to us. Utilizing whole animal butchery is beneficial to our consumers, our sources, and and our distributors.

When you choose to buy from a conscientious specialty meat plant like SunGold, you are directly contributing to sustainable practices in the Canadian food industry. Your personal choices as a consumer do create a positive impact on the environment, and will also encourages people within your network to reconsider their eating habits.

Where

At SunGold, accounting for the whole animal in our butchery process matters to us. When you buy our meats for your family and friends, you know you’re getting a hearty meal that was raised with care and butchered with consideration. We take pride in bringing you wholesome meats that are sourced ethically and sustainably so you can feel good about bringing them home.

SunGold is a leading supplier of lamb in North America.

From our carefully cut offals to our Lamb Tonight range, we use a whole animal approach to butchering, and we’re so excited to be able to share it with you.

Halal Meat in Canada

Halal Meat in Canada | SunGold Specialty Meats

The use of halal meat processing in western countries is often mired in controversy. Preconceived notions combined with a lack of knowledge surrounding the concept of “halal” can create a wealth of misunderstandings that more often than not, have a negative impact on our communities as a whole.

Let’s take a look at the facts.

Halal means “permissible” in Arabic, and originates from religious rules set out in the books of the Islamic faith: the Qu’ran and the Hadith. It can refer to any aspect of life referenced by the teachings of Islam and is not isolated to meat alone.

Preparing animals for halal slaughter means placing a great importance on the humane treatment of the animal beforehand. For example, water must always be offered to the animal before slaughter and it should not be slaughtered when hungry. The knife should be hidden from the animal, and slaughtering done out of sight of the other animals. Animals should be killed in a comfortable way, and any unnecessary suffering avoided. Finally, the animal must be slaughtered with the use of a sharp knife that cuts due to sharpness rather than pressure, and it must be re-sharpened after every slaughter. Skinning or cutting of any part of the animal is not allowed before the animal is completely dead.

“[Halal] means you make sure the knife is sharp and that when you do the slaughter, you do the job as quick as you can so you do not torture that animal. At the same time, what you are doing, is you are thanking your lord for allowing you take a life from another living creature for your own sustaining”, Yusuf Abdulrehman, the owner of Halal Meat Centre & Specialty Foods in Winnipeg, tells CountryGuide in an interview last year.

Halal slaughter is a very conscientious method of meat preparation that adds an extra layer of care, hygiene and cognizance to the process.

At SunGold Meats, we ensure each animal is gently restrained and carefully stunned before slaughter in order to prevent any pain or discomfort for the animal. Immediately prior to slaughter we use electrical stunning which produces instantaneous, painless unconsciousness inducing a grand mal epileptic seizure. Highly trained staff monitor stunning effectiveness of every lamb.

We are inspected twice per year by Halal certification authorities and according to feedback, are considered among the best in humane management. We firmly believe that our Halal accreditation and the dedicated focus it brings to humane slaughter provides us with a more humane, respectful and mindful process. Temple Grandin is a leading expert in the area of animal welfare and a great resource for meat plants such as ours. We refer to her research and recommendations, particularly in the area of humane handling and slaughter.

Why is halal certification important?

Because Canada is a proudly diverse and inclusive nation, it is very important to allow groups of different religious faiths to follow their lifestyle choices and be aware of any dietary restrictions they might have. In this sense, halal certification is similar to any type of food certification and audit system. Kosher, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, or halal, whatever the case might be, it’s important to help Canadian consumers make informed decisions about their food.

Halal Certification | SunGold Meats
Photo Credit: White Creek Ranch Photography, Country-Guide.ca

“We were looking at how to grow our business, asking how were we going to strengthen our business and researching the food service and retail landscape… consumers’ requirements, consumers’ taste, consumers’ interests,” says Miles Kliner, SunGold’s general manager. “So in a nutshell, when you do all that research you put together that information… one thing that was very apparent, is that the [demographics] of our country [are] changing and growing, and there is an opportunity to serve that market.”

It should also be noted there is a growing number of Canadian consumers who are not Muslim that are opting for Halal products. According to Canadian Grocer Magazine, “the concept of halal has extended far beyond a religious choice, also attracting consumers who are environmentally conscious (and) health conscious.” Fast-food chains like KFC, Popeyes and Nandos have all started adding halal options to their menus, while The Halal Guys, a fast-food franchise that began as a food cart in Manhattan, has already opened a location in Toronto last year.  

A second important reason lies in international trade. The global halal food trade is estimated at least $1.75 trillion annually, creating a highly lucrative opportunity for the Canadian meat industry. If companies like SunGold Meats, one of Canada’s largest lamb and goat processors, want to export to these rapidly growing markets, it is increasingly important to ensure our products are halal certified.

How do Canadian companies become halal-certified?

There are several different agencies in Canada that provide halal certification. However, the process is largely the same.

In order to become Halal-certified in Canada, an audit of the production facility is conducted to review the production process for products, evaluate ingredients, and assess the sanitation aspects of the production lines. Once registered and certified, the certifying body authorizes the use of the their halal symbol on product labels.

SunGold Meats works with ISNA® Canada (Islamic Society of North America). Since 1988, ISNA® Canada has been providing Halal Certification Services (HCS) to the Muslim communities in North America and around the world. All SunGold products are halal-certified and display the ISNA Halal logo.

Want to learn more about SunGold Meats and our work in the Canadian lamb industry? Send us an email at info@sungoldmeats.com or use this form! We’d love to hear from you.

This is Why Your Supermarket Needs More Lamb

This is Why Your Supermarket Needs More Lamb | SunGold

The retail landscape has, and always will be, a competitive one regardless of your industry. One way to navigate the changing marketplace is to return to the basics. It can be said that people shop at a specific location for one or more of the following three reasons:

  • proximity
  • price
  • products

A preferred retailer is either easy to get to, has the best price, or has specific products that their customers want.

The lamb market

Right now, lamb is usually not top of mind for most retailers or the bulk of consumers. For many of the retailers we work with at SunGold, lamb sales currently account for 2-4% of the meat department’s business.

However, this is changing.

There are two important reasons to take another good look at the lamb segment in retail. Firstly, it offers solid points of differentiation for a retailer. Secondly, it is primed and ready to capitalize on consumer trends for new experiences.

The best customers have lamb on their shopping list

In the battle with proximity, price, or product, it is often just the products that a category manager has effective control over. Lamb is a meat with a higher price point and is often sought out by customers that don’t mind spending more on quality products. Feedback from our retail base indicates that when a customer’s shopping basket contains lamb, it also contains other up-market items throughout the store, resulting in a higher overall spend.

Lamb Customers | SunGold

Our research in both U.S. and Canadian markets has shown that the lamb category represents an opportunity for retailers to differentiate. Our commitment to providing products that match consumer values has given our retail partners success in the marketplace. The results can be shown through our category sales with a national Canadian retailer placed in comparison to the average US category share.

SunGold Sales | Canadian Lamb Retailer

However, these graphs also reveal certain areas for growth in multiple categories in both markets.

As a leading lamb supplier, we work with some of the best lamb retailers in the world and have observed that maintaining a first class lamb category that is also value-aligned is advantageous to bringing in customers that intentionally seek out a premium shopping experience. We strongly suggest that category managers analyze the spending behaviour of customers who purchase lamb; it is likely very worthwhile to attract more visits from this segment.

Lamb: not just any other red meat

People enjoy new experiences – especially those that are wrapped in familiar packages. For ice-cream lovers today, there is a world of new gelato and frozen yogurt flavours to try. For those that love pizza, the food industry has concocted a number of different “pizza-esque” variations made of every kind of food. However, for the meat lover, the standard meat counter can often leave one wanting.

For the basic meat counter filled with the three most common proteins – beef, pork, and chicken, lamb is the perfect opportunity to provide a new value-add product for your customers. Lamb makes for a great eating experience and is one of the healthiest red-meat options available. A smaller industry size compared to the big 3 is also an advantage among consumers who want to know where their lamb came from, whether the animals were raised ethically, and if they were processed humanely.

Offering a diverse selection of high quality meats like lamb will appeal to the meat lover that likes to BBQ, impress friends, or have quality food experiences at home. They seek variety, new experiences, and enjoy discovering new foods to try. Everyone has a go-to store that they rely on for a great meat selection.

Beyond the BBQ

The experience of eating a great meat doesn’t start and end on your plate. It occurs at every touchpoint before and after the purchase including the grocery store, the meat aisle, product selection, cooking, and then finally eating. Therefore,  it is essential for both SunGold and our retail partners to do their respective parts to ensure that each and every touchpoint is a delight for the meat-loving customer.

SunGold is a leading supplier of lamb in North America.

SunGold is committed to providing the cuts, portions, and quality of meat that consumers desire. Retailers, for their part, will display a variety of lamb products, a fair price range, continuously stocked product, and knowledgeable staff – all leading to a satisfied repeat customer. In this way, regardless of each retailer’s strength (proximity, price, or product), their meat department sales flourish, customers are pleased, and the global lamb market continues to grow.

Why Mediterranean? Here Are Some Benefits to the Famed Diet

Mediterranean Diet Benefits | SunGold Meats

Ah yes, the famed Mediterranean diet. Why do so many people sing this diet praises?

Well, picture this: bright vegetables from the local markets; a mix of fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, and wild marjoram; the blending flavours of pure olive oil, saffron, garlic, olives, and figs with some oven-fresh pita…  all coming together in one tasty experience.

The beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean are known for their bright sunshine, blue waters, antique-looking buildings, and lively atmosphere — the legacy of a 2000-year old civilization brought together in a melange of modern bustle and excitement. But there’s more to soak up in the Mediterranean than just the sights.

The Mediterranean diet has been firmly established as one of the healthiest in the world, linked to lowered blood pressure, a reduced risk of type-2 diabetes, maintaining a healthy body weight, and promoting a longer lifespan. The diet includes a lot of vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grain bread and brown rice.

One of the most important parts of this diet is the use of healthy fats. Olive oil, for example, is a monounsaturated fat used daily and in significant amounts across the countries in the Mediterranean region, drizzled generously over salads, into hummus, across pasta, and much more. Healthy polyunsaturated fats are found in the regular use of nuts, seeds, and the oily fish found just as regularly in Mediterranean cuisine.

But the Mediterranean diet isn’t just about plants and seeds!

It also offers a healthy assortment of meat dishes that happen to be packed with delicious flavour and an amazing nutritional profile. Unsurprisingly, lamb is the preferred choice of animal protein in the Mediterranean region. Over the years, they’ve found that lamb elevates the eating experience, adding a flavour enhancement to otherwise plant-based meals and salads.

Lamb has fewer calories and less saturated fat than beef. It’s also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids — the same healthy fats typically found in cold-water fish, proven to reduce inflammation, encourage brain health, prevent heart disease, and even provide protection from cancer.

Lamb is also rich in a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid called oleic acid that reduces blood pressure, prevents ulcerative colitis, alleviates the symptoms of type-2 diabetes and protects cell membranes from free radicals. Oleic acid is also known to help increase the burning of fat and for accelerating the rates of complete fat oxidation in muscle cells.

In addition, lamb is an excellent source of vitamin B12, selenium, vitamin B3, zinc, phosphorus, iron, and CLA. CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, has been associated with a great number of health benefits, including boosts to the immune system, healthy bone mass, reduced inflammation, healthy bone mass, weight loss, and improved blood sugar regulation.

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, “adherence to a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern would make a significant contribution to increasing food sustainability, as well as increasing the health benefits that are well-documented for this type of diet.”

Following this diet is not only good for you and your body, but it’s projected to help the world itself.

Eaten fire roasted and seasoned with flavourful spices, piled up on a skewer, or served up in a hearty stew — there’s no way you won’t fall in love with the Mediterranean favourite once you’ve had a taste.

In fact, here’s a Greek-style Osso Bucco recipe you can try tonight!

There’s another good reason lamb is one of the go-to meats in the beautiful, white walled kitchens along the Mediterranean Sea: lamb is absolutely delicious!

If you live in Canada and want to give the esteemed Mediterranean diet a shot, opt for some fresh, Canadian lamb. At SunGold Specialty Meats, we operate a federally inspected, HACCP certified, Halal certified, full-service meat processing plant in Innisfail, Alberta. As a world-class meat provider, we specialize in processing lamb and goat, and work hard to provide high-quality products for niche-oriented domestic and international markets.

Find our products at any of our retailing locations!

Thinking About Going Paleo? Read This First!

Whether you’re ready to make the switch to Paleo, planning a BBQ with a Paleo friend, or you’re just here to find out what a Paleo diet is – you’re in the right place.

So, what is it?

First thing’s first: a Paleo diet, like most diets, is defined by groups of food you’ll want to include and avoid in your diet.

Paleo diets include:

  • Fruits
  • Eggs
  • Veggies
  • Lean meats
  • Seafood
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Healthy fats

Avoid these things:

  • Dairy
  • Processed foods and sugar
  • Legumes
  • Starches
  • Salt
  • Alcohol

The groupings are actually based on the foods our ancient ancestors used to eat, as far back as the Paleolithic era (about 3 million years ago). At that time, humans ate a balanced diet of lean meat, healthy fats, and fibrous vegetables.

>> Read our blog post on the history of the human diet here. <<

Conversely, the foods on the avoid list are items that would not have been readily available to early human communities. Several studies (like this one) have shown that a return to a paleo-based diet is the most natural and healthy option for humans.

Paleo | Lamb Steak | SunGold

You’re probably wondering what the fuss around all this is about. We’ve come a long way in modernization and technology, and potato chips (and beer) are delicious, so why make the switch?

1. There’s no counting

Unlike other diets, there’s no counting calories or points. There’s also no such thing as cheating because the food you’ll be eating is Paleo or not, plain and simple. So there’s no guilt, and it’s easy to stay on track. Going Paleo adds to an overall healthy lifestyle and it’s an approach to food that’s designed to be something you stick with, not something you do in a hurry to lose five pounds.

2. It easily eliminates a lot of things you already know to avoid

Carbs. Junk food. Fast food. You already know they’re unhealthy, and going Paleo wipes them out of your diet completely. You aren’t going to have to worry about eating the whole tub of ice cream because you won’t be buying it in the first place.

Clean eating comes easy when you have clear dividers of foods that fit your diet and foods that don’t.

3. You’ll have more energy

Avoiding refined sugar means you’re also going to be avoiding spikes in your blood glucose levels, which means no more sugar jitters and intense crashing.

NOTE: If you’re diabetic, be sure to check with your doctor to determine if going Paleo is right for you.

4. You’re going to snack a lot less

Sure, it’s true. Fresh, lean, healthy food often comes with a higher price tag than fast food alternatives. What you might not have considered, however, is that you’ll be saving money in the long run because the high-protein, low carb meals will keep you fuller for longer and they’ll protect you from bank-breaking health disorders.

Paleo means less snacking, less cravings, and less drive-thru trips that hurt your health and your wallet. Simple.

We hear your “buts”:

We know – change is hard. Anyone who claims differently is probably lying. We can imagine what you’re thinking:

  •       “But I want to be able to make quick and easy dinners!”
  •       “But making fresh food at home takes so much work!”
  •       “But my family has a lot of favourite meals we enjoy together that aren’t Paleo!”

We hear you – and all these concerns are perfectly valid. But switching to a Paleo diet doesn’t have to happen all at once.

Starting Paleo, the easy way:

Try cutting out a few foods at a time to increase your chances of success. Cut out added sugar first (admittedly, a tough one but a solid place to start). Then, eventually make your way through the “avoid” list. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to implement small changes over time than it is to implement a big change all at once.

You’re also going to want to start paying closer attention to what you eat regularly and start thinking about Paleo alternatives you can substitute in. Lamb (like Lamb Tonight) is a great alternative to higher fat meats. It has less marbling than most beef, so it’s naturally leaner. Racks of lamb and lamb chops are delicious family-favourites and are also very easy to substitute into recipes to give your classic favourites a Paleo twist.

For example, sub in some zucchini noodles and our Italian-style lamb meatballs with your favourite spaghetti sauce, and you’re left with a tasty Paleo meal that’s not a huge departure from pasta night, but is making your body happier with every bite.

The best part?

This is just one of the products from our Lamb Tonight line that was specifically designed to create easy dinners for busy families, and it’s full of the good stuff – like lean lamb and natural seasoning.

30-Minute Dinners: Souvlaki Kabobs

Summer, sunshine, and warmth has finally arrived in Canada – which means it’s time to hit the good ol’ barbie! Nothing beats a perfectly-seared serving of meat, dripping in delicious marinade, placed beside some roasted garden vegetables.

But no matter how warm and starry the night, no-one wants to be stuck on cooking duty for hours on end. Use the SunGold 30-minute dinner recipes to get a delicious dinner on the table quickly and without hassle!

SunGold | 30 Minute Dinners | Souvlaki

Lamb Tonight

Fellow Canadians: It’s time to finally put aside the frozen beef burgers and pick up a delicious, nutritious alternative.

Lamb Tonight products are made from 100% Canadian lamb, raised on ethical farms across Western Canada. The Lamb Tonight series features lamb burgers, meatballs (Italian and Mediterranean), sausage, souvlaki kabobs, Taste of India kabobs, and ground lamb kabobs offered in kofta, gyros, or shawarma style – without a single hint of preservatives, fillers, additives, or food colouring. With great variety in product features, you’ll find it incredibly easy to start changing up your summer dinner menus each week!

 

Today, we’re going to work with the souvlaki lamb kabobs and pair them with an easy tzatziki sauce, pita bread, and grilled vegetables.

Tzatziki Sauce

All you need for this quintessential Greek sauce is:

  • 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped, fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Once you’ve assembled these 5 easy ingredients, throw them all into a bowl and stir well, adding salt to taste. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge while you prepare the rest of your meal.

Grilled Vegetables

Assemble your favourite garden vegetables and get them sliced. We recommend bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms – but you can use whatever you fancy.

Brush your sliced veggies with a bit of oil, and then sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Grill the veggies until they’re tender and very lightly charred – about 8 minutes for the peppers, and 7 minutes for the zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms.

Lamb Kabobs

Every Lamb Tonight product comes pre-seasoned, pre-marinated, and ready for the grill. The souvlaki lamb kabobs are gently seasoned with black pepper, cayenne, coriander, mint, oregano, paprika, thyme, lemon, garlic, and onion – the perfect Greek flavour combination!

Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat, and make sure to grease the grate well. Grill the kabobs for 4 to 5 minutes, or until cooked through and grill-marked.

To serve, slice your pita bread into quarters. Place a few pieces on each plate with a dollop of tzatziki, a generous serving of aromatic grilled vegetables, and a kabob or two of perfectly seared lamb.

The entire dinner should take you less than 30 minutes to prepare, but the result is an authentically flavoured, impressive spread of delicious food, guaranteed to spice up your summer night and impress your guests.

Where to find Lamb Tonight

If you’re ready to start getting your #GrillMaster skills on, head on over to your nearest Sobeys, Safeway, Thrifty Foods, Foodland, Calgary Co-op or Federated Co-Op to pick up your pack of ready-to-go souvlaki kabobs!

Smoked Paprika and Lemon Rub for Lamb

SunGold Smoked Paprika Lemon Lamb Rub

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 4

Description:

Simple, smoky and spicy is the perfect seasoning for BBQ or grilled lamb.  Lamb loin chops are thick and juicy, leg steaks and lamb sirloin would also be equally delicious.

Ingredients List:

  • 8 SUNGOLD lamb chops (steak, loin or sirloin)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) mild smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) lemon zest
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) Kosher or coarse sea salt
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) ground white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil

Preparation & Directions:

  • In a small bowl blend garlic, paprika, zest, oregano, salt and pepper.
  • Add olive oil and stir to a thick paste.
  • Divide paste evenly between chops, and rub over the entire chop.
  • Allow meat to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Heat BBQ or grill pan to medium high.
  • Cook about 4 minutes per side for medium rare.