STORY CONTINUES BELOW THESE SALTWIRE VIDEOS
Chris De Waal isn’t ready to go on the record about what happened to stick the knife in a planned downtown expansion of his butchery business, which is too bad because he has an extremely colourful description for the other party involved. Cast Iron Round Casserole Dish
However, the man who is the face of the Osprey’s Roost meat shops is willing to take off the gloves when describing what he considers the biggest challenge in that sector.
“Try to figure out a way to get Nova Scotians to stop cutting each other’s throats, and instead work together to create something bigger and better than whatever has been here,” De Waal said. “Nova Scotians begrudge others their success. As long as our attitude is me first, we’re never going to have the impact as an industry that we could if we didn’t celebrate each other’s failures and mistakes and struggles.”
Osprey’s Roost has locations on Oxford Street and in the Hydrostone Market, and De Waal is mulling both expansion and diversification.
“Hydrostone has to function like a Manhattan shop because the footprint is so small. It’s like the galley of a ship in there, and we still put more customers through there than Oxford,” he said. “But the Hydrostone, by virtue of the neighbourhood, the shopping patterns there are like Europeans, where you see the same people three or four times per week.
Down at Oxford, they treat it more like they’re buying groceries. People spend more time at Oxford, but they don’t come as frequently.
“The vision has always been to put small neighbourhood shops all over HRM,” he said. “When we had to close our Seaport Market location at the beginning of the pandemic, we replaced that with Oxford. But what we would like to be able to do is to deliver our products to people all over the city, and we’re trying to get our online presence ramped up.”
Delivery could start by the summer, and locations for new shops being considered include Fall River, Bedford, Rockingham and Chester.
Read more How N.S. beef can be as earth-friendly as the buffalo Getaway Farm's expansion to Bedford processing facility will boost business, create jobs
How N.S. beef can be as earth-friendly as the buffalo
Getaway Farm's expansion to Bedford processing facility will boost business, create jobs
“What we’re really excited to do is bring an old school mentality to new neighbourhoods, to new customers,” said De Waal. “We want to make our stuff available wherever we can because it’s not a product you can get anywhere else. Everybody’s buying ten-gallon pails of a blend and everybody’s pepperoni tastes the same, everybody’s honey garlic sausage tastes the same because it’s all the same prefabricated mixes.
“What we’re doing here isn’t what any other meat processor does, because we’re not buying pails of premixed (spices), and you just scoop so many pounds of that, throw it into your meat and make it. We’re creating all the recipes from scratch and using scratch ingredients. We’ll toast coriander seed and then grind it, it’s very old school, we don’t use any prefabricated mixes or blends that have emulsifiers and preservatives.”
The Bedford facility where Osprey’s Roost does its processed products is equipped with a vacuum sausage pump that can make 1,000 pounds of sausage in an hour and that De Waal calls “a monster of a machine,” a bowl cutter, a brine injector and a smoker with a built-in sprinkler to clean smoked hams before they come out for wrapping. Everything made here is sold at the Oxford and Hydrostone locations, and the processing facility has the capacity to supply four or five shops.
That capacity might be needed if an about-to-be-completed project goes right. De Waal is teaming up with another iconoclast, Chris Cuddihy of Salvatore’s Pizza, on improving the single most important pizza topping.
"As long as our attitude is me first, we’re never going to have the impact as an industry that we could if we didn’t celebrate each other’s failures and mistakes and struggles."
“He’s our benchmark litmus test for pepperoni for a pizza. We’re in the process of developing it - and we’re probably one or two batches away from having it done – and he wants to carry our pepperoni for his pizza,” said De Waal, who will also sell the new product at his shops and to any pizzeria that wants it. “We’re not going to limit who can get it, but Chris is the one who’ll tell us if it’s good pepperoni.”
However, the heart of the Osprey’s Roost business remains the beef raised at its Getaway Farm, in the Annapolis Valley.
“When it comes to the beef production, there’s only so much grass-fed Getaway Farm beef to go around, and that’s a hard reality. Capacity at the farm is about 390 animals and that’s all that can be there,” De Waal said of cows that take 20-24 months to raise. “But that’s not to say that we can’t work with other producers who are willing to follow the same management practices to produce the same kind of beef. We’ve had those discussions with some producers, it’s still early days but we would love to see on the farm side a network of farms working together to produce a sustainable product that can sequester carbon instead of producing it and get a better return for their product. They should be paid properly for what they’re doing.”
Even in a time when beef at the grocery store is notably expensive, Getaway Farm beef costs significantly more. But selling it is no problem.
“The people that buy pasture-raised grass-fed dry-aged beef buy it on purpose,” said De Waal. “That want that product for the flavour, many people come because it is dry-aged because it is grass-fed…and/or they buy it for the ecological impact. We don’t till the soil, we’re not releasing carbon into the atmosphere, we’re not growing annual grains to feed the animals.”
Ensure local journalism stays in your community by purchasing a membership today.
The news and opinions you’ll love for only $20/ year.
Start your Membership Now
Mincer Sharing voices. Creating stronger communities.