Melding Italian, German and Albertan culinary practises to bring artisan butchery to Albertans. A farm to table partnership by three families.
By Theresa Tayler
Arriving in Canada
When Mercedes Messinger first met her husband, Joachim (Joe) he asked if she’d consider moving from cosmopolitan Europe to the rural heartland of America—Texas, U.S.A., to be exact. As a butcher, Joe dreamed of being in the midst of a thriving ranching community.
“Um, no thanks…” Mercedes politely declined. The then 29-year-old businesswoman’s career in executive positions in Germany was a far cry from the rough and tumble cowboy culture of the Lone Star State. She wasn’t sure about Texas but was willing to compromise.
“I could see raising a family in Canada and having a life there,” she told Joe, after all, “Canada is often romanticised in Germany for the beautiful lakes, mountains and cosy winters.”
Alberta, in particular, seemed to Mercedes to offer the perfect combination of European values mixed with North American culture, western heritage, and a ranching and farming community where Joe could build a successful business. But, it would be several more years before the couple eventually put their international plans into action.
|Some of Joe's many medals for sausage-making.||Presentation ceremony in Germany.|
Before the Messinger family emigrated to Alberta in 2000, Mercedes and Joe owned a butcher shop just minutes from the French border in Germany.
Joe had a love for butchering since he was eight years old. He has passionately followed that career path throughout his life, becoming a Master Butcher, winning many Gold and Silver medals for sausage-making.
After they were married, Joe and Mercedes combined their know-how to become an entrepreneurial, culinary power-couple.
1991 Mercedes & Joe on their wedding day.
Joe's sons Christian & Achim.
“In Germany, we not only ran the butcher shop but also a bistro, with fifteen staff, serving about 100 lunches a day, also operating an off-sales vehicle and running a party service,” explains Mercedes. “Even before we had our three children we knew we would perhaps one day move to Canada and continue to be entrepreneurs. Our goal has always been to be self-employed and we saw many opportunities in Alberta to start a meat business.”
|The butcher Bistro store in Germany.||Sign outside the store.|
While things were going well for the
|Jeremy, Vanessa & Robin Messinger at school in France||Jeremy (standing) Robin & Vanessa at school in Red Deer|
“Alberta is the Canadian Texas. We love living close to the Rockies, the weather is incredible, nothing beats Alberta’s big skies! We love the space we have here and it feels like you live in a small town even when you’re in a big city,” explains Mercedes.
“When we first came to Canada, Joe worked for the Innisfail Meat Packers, learning about how meat processors are provincially inspected and run in Alberta," Mercedes remembers. "We are still so fond of this wonderful town. When we moved there, no one discriminated against us because we were foreign or made us feel unwelcome, it's a true testament to what Canada is about; a welcoming country. We still look back on life in Innisfail with fond memories."
In 2001 the Messingers bought a house in Red Deer and Joe began a new position with Nossack Fine Meats, where he got a glimpse of a Federally Inspected Facility,” says Mercedes. “Eventually, with the knowledge of Canadian practices he gained from working in both federal and provincial facilities, he decided he was ready to go out on his own. We bought the former Provincially Inspected slaughter & meat processing facility, Meat Co. in Mirror, Alberta in 2004.” They also moved their acreage there a year later.
Bringing Piedmontese Beef to Albertans
|Peter & Emma Den Oudsten, Teresa Spinelli, Joe & Mercedes Messinger. A farm-to-table partnership by three families.
||Grass-fed Piedmontese cows at Peony Farms. They have a unique gene for tender meat & a leaner look than most cattle.|
One of Joe’s customers, Peony Farms owner and President of the Canadian Piedmontese Association, Peter DenOudsten, introduced the Messinger family to Piedmontese beef. “The rest, as they say, is history,” says Mercedes.
Joe and Mercedes decided to dedicate a portion of their business to supplying grass-fed Piedmontese beef to Albertans.
Messinger Meats today processes only local, high-quality, hormone and chemical free meats including the renowned Piedmontese beef variety. This rare Italian breed of cattle is genetically higher in lean-to-fat ratios and has less marbling than any other cut of red meat. The shorter, finer double muscle tissue leads to one of the most tender-tasting, lowest in cholesterol, highest in Omega 3 and 6, as well as protein, meats available.
The cows arrive relaxed just a short distance from Peony Farms to Messinger's facility and are respectfully processed. "No one touches the animals but us," Mercedes explains with pride,"From the farm to the packaging, to the meat cooler in the stores."
“It’s truly second to none regarding nutrients and the best-tasting beef around,” explains Mercedes, “People are blown away by the quality and it’s not easy to come by. We are the only retailer in Canada.”
There is only about 15,000 head of Piedmontese cattle in North American at any given time. In the early 1970s, one bull and four cows were brought to North America by boat. Messinger Meats works exclusively with the Italian Centre Shop in both Edmonton and Calgary to supply those major cities with this unique beef.
“When I was looking for a perfect place to retail our Piedmontese beef, there was nowhere more worthy than the Italian Centre Shop,” Mercedes says. “Not only is Piedmontese beef from Northern Italy originally, but the Italian Centre Shops values are in line with our own: Family run, good quality food, they support local at fair and affordable prices for Albertans.”
|Vanessa, Ashley married to Jeremy, DJ (Vanessa's fiance), Robin & pets. At Christmas.||
Staff & family at work in the processing facility,
As soon as the
“We pride ourselves on being artisan butchers, and Alberta’s connection for local meat, farm to plate,” Mercedes says.
As well as Piedmontese beef, Messinger Meats provide milk-fed veal (Primrose Family Farm) hormone and chemical free pork (Zuidhof family), lamb and elk as well as bison from various farms across Alberta. The products (including their homemade sausages) are lactose, gluten, sugar and filler free.
|Messinger delivery van outside the Calgary store.|
As the nation celebrates its 150th Birthday, Mercedes says she looks back on their decision to immigrate with extreme happiness. The best decision they ever made.
“We are very proud of our German Roots, which helped us to overcome every obstacle, to work hard and never give up. The best parts of Canada and being Canadian is belonging to a country with strong values of generosity, where multiculturalism thrives,” she says. “When you have lived elsewhere you understand the importance of living in a country in peace, where all religions and backgrounds can be respected. Canada gave us room to grow, as a family and as a business.”
|Joe & Mercedes Messinger by the meat cooler at the Little Italy store.|