It’s not very intuitive that a company called West Side Beef would sell anything other than beef. When our little company first started, we were a fledgling little program. It’s a great story, and you can read about it here.
When we first got started, our goal was to solve a simple problem. How could we help people (and at that time that meant us, how could we help ourselves and our friends) get the same quality beef for our home consumption that farmers have when they decide to eat the food right off their farm? I grew up with a grandfather that farmed cattle and we always ate the best beef at his dinner table. When I became a chef and butcher, the relationship between great ingredients and their proximity to my meal table always fascinated me. Eventually, I learned for certain that the best food comes directly from the farm.
But I raise my family in the city. If I want my friends and family to eat food right from the farm this makes buying the best beef very difficult. I mean, unless you want to buy a whole cow. For large animals like beef cattle, it can be hard to share without some heavy organization and shared commitment. West Side Beef is a solution for people that wanted to eat farm fresh meat raised transparently and locally. WSB takes on the work of aggregating demand, facilitating payment and expediting delivery. Plus, we add some additional value like expert cutting, restaurant quality recipe production and costly vacuum sealing.
As the years went by and WSB customers continued to recommend our program to their friends, word got out that we have access to the best farm raised proteins in Ontario. So the follow-up questions started to roll in. Can you also get lamb? Will you help me source great ducks? Will you arrange for me to have a whole venison for the holidays? Truthfully, we can do all these things. We have a great venison farmer out in Hepworth and Dale and Marianne still grow great ducks on their farm in Middlesex and we use them at Richmond Station every week. But in our mind, WSB was meant to solve a problem of access that really was related to how truly difficult it would be to buy a side of beef solo.
The request we got more than any other from our faithful customers was: can you help me get great chickens? Again, the real answer here was yes. I’ve known John and Carol at Fenwood Farms for close to ten years and have visited their farm so many times. My family has been eating their chickens for just as long as I’ve known them. But at WSB, I always fought against the idea that we should get people chickens. Truly, I thought this was something our customers, all ambitious and talented home cooks, could handle without intervention. I mean, you can just go and get a whole chicken and butcher it yourself, right?
In the life of a business, some ideas take time to mature. WSB offering Shares of Chicken was an idea that admittedly took too long to mature. Each of our chicken shares contains birds from Fenwood Farms that are all raised without antibiotics or hormones. They have constant access to outdoors and their barns have lots of air flow, and air exchange, which helps keep the birds healthy and full of energy. Our customers asked for this offering for a long time and when I look back on it, I think it took too long for us to get around to sorting this out. What had started as a solution for people to access great quality beef has evolved into an online store that allows customers to access great beef, chicken, and pork from small Ontario farms. It’s the same product we serve at Richmond Station and its the same meat that I feed my family.
West Side Beef sells chicken because our customers asked us to offer chicken. Each Share of Chicken contains 4 birds: one whole and trussed, one spatchcocked and marinated, and two that are broken down into breasts, legs and wings. We roll the bones and provide two 500 mL containers of chicken stock, and if there’s enough fat on the birds we’re rendering it out and put in the schmaltz.