Longview Beef Jerky – confusion and closing…

Written by on February 19, 2012 in Alberta, Calgary, Food and Beverages, Investing

Back on November 13, 2011, I had a short item on Longview Beef Jerky.

It seems there were actually two companies called Longview Beef Jerky.

Unbeknownst to many, Longview is actually home to two famous beef jerky plants: The Longview Jerky Shop, which has operated as a retail butcher since 1979. The other, Original Longview Beef Jerky, is, ironically, not the original jerky shop at all, but rather a wholesale supplier that split from the retail store about 10 years ago.

The latter business operates a federally inspected plant that can ship meat all over the country.

Or, at least, it could: Original Longview Beef Jerky went out of business at the beginning of the year. On Saturday, it sold off the last of its meat supply in discount $100 crates from the parking lot of the Longview Esso station.

By the afternoon, all that was left was an empty white van and a real-estate sign visible from the road.

The owner of the plant, Peter Lawson, told the Okotoks Western Wheel that he had been pushed out of business by tougher rules imposed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Many procedures had become stricter since the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak in 2008.

“We just can’t afford to work with the CFIA and all their requirements,” he said. “It’s very onerous to be a food producer when you’re dealing with the federal statutes and regulations.”

At the Longview retail store, which is a provincially inspected plant that can sell meat only inside the province, Kirk said he empathized with his competitor.

“I’ve been in that place. It’s hospital clean,” he said.

The company I wrote about last year has closed. Lord! I am going to miss the Sweet Chili Beef Jerky.

What is arguably Alberta’s most famous cured-meat company — distributed nationally — is shutting down in the face of ever-stringent Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations and related expenses.

“Last year’s expenses, between a rusty screw or two that had to be replaced, inspector fees, Listeria swabbing, water sampling … (were) over $12,000,” said Lawson.

Now, all that remains of the ready-to-eat meat is whatever remains on store shelves.

“All good things must come to an end, and we have,” said Lawson. “One of my favourite moments was having a letter from a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan — with his Tim Hortons coffee and his Longview beef jerky, he didn’t feel far from home that Christmas away from his family.”

The question for me is, will the product from the provincially regulated company end up on the shelves here in Calgary?

As word of the wholesale plant’s closure spread, Kirk said he’s mistakenly received hundreds of calls from people offering condolences.

He’s had to reassure customers of the viability of his Jerky shop, which is a tourist destination.

“Our busy season is when the grass grows green and the motorbikes start rolling,” he said.

In the winter, the store custom cuts hunting game.

The Kirks purchased the property next door in October in a bid to build a bigger plant.

In the meantime, his business plans may have just become a lot more ambitious. He’s certainly not going anywhere.

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