Totally Game Meat has opened in downtown Sarnia and is believed to be the only Ontario retailer selling non-traditional meats and poultry.
Numerous suppliers sell bison, elk, wild boar and other products, and some are available at farmers’ markets, but Megan and Diane Hadley say their shop is the only retail outlet for game in the province.
The idea came to them after they both took early retirement from government jobs and began planning their next chapter.
“We wanted to work with food and considered a restaurant,” said Megan. “But there are already too many good restaurants in Sarnia, so we were searching for something else.”
They were sitting around a campfire up north one night with a friend who raises bison.
“We began to think about that, and how big the market is for Ontario-raised game,” said Diane.
Consultation with the local Business Development Corporation began to convince the women their idea of retailing non-traditional meats and poultry might fly.
“We surveyed 135 people to see if they would buy our meat and only three said they wouldn’t,” said Megan. She points to figures that indicate Sarnians spent $34 million on meat in the first 10 months of 2014.
If Totally Game Meat attracts just a fraction of that market, their business plan will be solid, she said.
“Of course we need to make money, but we’re also doing this because people are concerned about what they eat.
“Our product is not genetically modified; there are no hormones and it’s free range,” said Megan. “Our research shows that red game meats are lower in fat and cholesterol, and higher in protein than beef.”
Totally Game Meat at 126 Christina St. North opened on August 25 and hosted a reception for fellow downtown merchants. They served pizza made with bison salami and bison bacon, curried goat and elk stew.
That’s just a sampling of the value-added products Diane will be making from meats frozen in the store’s 15 freezers. Everything from pheasant to lamb, deer to rabbit, goat and bison, wild boar, elk and guinea fowl come vacuum packed and frozen for retail.
Prices are geared to market but generally are about 13% higher than retail prices for conventional meat. For instance, a package of six large venison honey garlic sausages is priced at $28.60 per kilogram. A whole rabbit costs about $21 and a four-pack of elk burgers $14.
The first shipment of wild boar just arrived and sells for $17.60 per kilo ground, $22 per kilo for chops.
The Hadleys have installed a new, state-of-the-art kitchen with a smoker, investing approximately $300,000 in total to get their business off the ground.
The kitchen is where they prepare numerous take-out products fresh every day, including eight-ounce bowls of bison soup and elk stew for $4.50 each and an elk sandwich for $7.50.
Anyone wondering how to cook their purchase can refer to Diane’s recipe book at the front of the shop and have any page photocopied free of charge.
Totally Game Meat is open Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Visit www.totallygamemeat.com or call 519-491-MEAT (6328) for details.
Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.