TORONTO – A select group of restaurateurs, chefs, butchers and food writers gathered in Toronto’s hip Victor restaurant for an information session and, yes, to sample some of the finest organic beef Alberta has to offer, care of Diamond Willow Organic Beef.
Led by a consortium of conscientious ranchers, Diamond Willow is the master plan of a small group of Alberta cowboys, including Keith Everts who’s been described by one food writer as an idealist dreamer.
While the lunch was certainly more about the delicious trio of beef brilliantly prepared by chef David Chrystian (rib-eye, sirloin and tenderloin with a bonus bit of tar tar), the theme of the discussion was undoubtedly green, organic and political “There’s politics in food whether at the production end or at the restaurant end,” Everts told the attentive crowd. “People just have to remember that our rancher grandfathers were organic, they just didn’t know it, because that word wasn’t around.”
While the ranching and abattoir business in Canada does not, and has not enjoyed the world’s best reputation and public relations image, perhaps deservedly so, producers like Everts and his team are working to change that reality.
The stated purpose of Diamond Willow is plainly an environmentally sustainable one, and their mission of responsible ranching and slaughtering is gaining some converts. Practices like allowing cattle to roam freely on vast tracks of Alberta foothills land, feed on naturally present, fertilizer-free grass and ensure that their finishing-line feed products are third-party certified organic, are just a few of the critical steps Everts says the group takes to ensure its product is as pure and natural as can be.
Victor’s Chrystian, already an Ontario-based Diamond Willow devotee, said his passion for sustainable, responsible food came as a result of his participation in the Slow Food movement’s Terra Madre event in Italy. “I was left with a deep sense of responsibility from Terra Madre, and when we believe in something, it’s our responsibility to work towards affecting change,” he added.
The meat is already available in restaurants out west, in Quebec and select spots in Ontario, but given the ever shifting trend towards responsible, local cuisine, don’t be surprised if this is the kind of change you see on menus near you.