Makers Profile

Enright Cattle Company on the Forefront of Agricultural Innovation in Bay of Quinte Region

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Enright Cattle Company

Fourth-generation farmers, Kara and Darold Enright have owned and operated Enright Cattle Company since 2004. It’s a delightful, picturesque 95-acrea farm located near Tweed just a few minutes away from Kara’s parents’ own agricultural operation, Langevin Farms. Both are involved in the cattle rearing operation with the calves being born at Enright until they are at the weaning age, when they are shipped to Langevin.

All food and feed for the animals is raised on one of the two properties, and no artificial hormones are used to promote growth in the cattle. So that’s two ways the Enrights are innovated and also responding to the needs of modern consumers and customers – a desire for sustainable food products and knowledge of what is being ingested by the animal so that the end-user knows what exactly they’re eating.

The Enrights raise and breed Simmental cattle, a breed which Kara says is great for their purposes for a number of reasons relating to behaviour, versatility and quality of the meat.

“It’s actually the breed that my dad chose when he started into beef cattle after switching from dairy in the 1990s, and it’s one that we decided to continue with because the cows are incredible mothers. They’re quiet, so their temperament is really good, and with us having young kids around, it’s important that the temperament is very good so that we’re able to handle them safely,” she explained.

“Their milk production is high, and in other countries the Simmental is a dual purpose breed so they will be used for milk production and beef production. They raise good, strong, health calves because they have lots of milk. And they also have carcass characteristics that we were looking for. We’re able to finish those calves to market weight at a reasonable size with the marbling and fat cover that our customers were looking for.”

Using and making money from as much as the cow as possible is always a challenge for cattle farmers. Enright Cattle Company has chosen to market their high quality cattle to a variety of specialized markets. Because of the quality of the meat, they target upscale, highly discriminating consumers and especially high end restaurants.

“We will sell a restaurant a specific cut. If they are looking for a whole striploin, or an inside round or a brisket or whatever, we have our carcasses broken down into what are called primal cuts. So that’s the individual muscles and we sell and distribute each individual muscle, versus saying that we just have a side of beef or a quarter of beef to sell. But those are a lot harder for a restaurant to deal with,” she explained.

“If you go into a restaurant, it lists a specific cut for the dish, so that means they are looking for multiples of those specific cuts. That’s a challenge as a small producer like us, because it’s not like a vegetable where you can grow the specific type of carrot a customer wants. You have all of the cuts to remove and find a home for, not just the individual ones that one person or one restaurant may be looking for. So the challenge is to find homes for the rest of the cow.

One way to do this is to have a very diverse range of customers, some who don’t mind taking the less desirable cuts. Gourmet burger shops and fine dining places want ground beef, while others may want hip cuts to use for roast beef sandwiches or jerky.

“We can only get rid of so many, say, tenderloin, striploin or ribeye because those are always go the quickest so we can only sell as many of those as our slowest moving cut,” Enright said, adding that bones can be sold as soup bones, a client in Toronto takes offal such as kidneys and liver and tendons to make gourmet dog treats, and more recently, Enright Cattle Company is working to produce a line of high-end processed meats, working in partnership with Sharbot Lake-based Seed to Sausage.

A select group of consumers and many high-end chefs also want to be able to ensure the quality and safety of the beef they are serving or eating through computer chip tracking. And while cattle farmers routinely implant a chip in the cow’s ear as part of government tracking regulations, Enright farms has expanded this technology to include every cut of beef that leaves their farm. Not only does this traceability program help keep an accurate record of each carcass, but it has the value of also being a great way to plot sales trends and keep an at-your-fingertips handle on inventory.

“Each animal has a chip in it which allows people to electronically scan and keep a record of information, so when the animal has anything major happen to it in its life while on our farm we electronically record that in our software and add it to the computer file we have on each animal. When it gets shipped out to the abattoir, that’s recorded and that ear tag number gets entered into a special program which develops a label which has a bar code printed on it and there is a lot of information imbedded into that code,” she said.

“Any piece of meat that gets cut and packaged from that animal gets one of those labels attached. When we go and put together the orders for our customers, we scan each label that is going out to a specific customer and that automatically generates an invoice for us. It also keeps track of where everything on the animal went. When we go back to the computer and synch everything up, we can do a full recall and see where each piece of meat went from each individual animal. This allows us to piece each carcass back together and see how profitable that particular carcass was, because some generate more sellable meat that others. We can see how one cow family is producing a lot more profitable carcasses than another family, and when we’re selecting heifers for replacement we can pick from the cow family that is being more productive.”

Besides figuring out ways to use almost every internal part of the carcass, Enright Cattle Company has also come up with a way of generating a revenue stream from the hides. Recently, they collaborated with a designer leather craftsperson to create a line of handbags.

Kara said the concept of making leather bags was initially just a funny throw-away notion during a conversation with her marketing and promotions team, but got some legs when she actually began to do a little research into the opportunity.

“It just kind of sat there on the back burner but I did keep doing some research online to see if it was possible and could we ever make it happen. Then finally I was able to find a tannery that would be able to do it and it all just came together pretty quickly from there. It really did start with a pie-in-the-sky idea of ‘wouldn’t that be cool.’ Now we have these amazing bags and they’re made from our own cows,” she said.

“The leather maker has the ideas and the concepts and designs. He will do a mock up and will ask what we think; what we like and don’t like. I just give very general, high-level comments because I am not a designer. He knows what has to be done to make them withstand use and the elements and be wearable and durable. We just wanted a very high quality product that was going to be timeless and something that would last people for many years.”

All the information about the leather goods is available at the Enright website, http://enrightcattlecompany.com, as is information about their beef and related products. There are also some tasty recipes and links to the various restaurants that use Enright beef in their dishes.