Doing things the old fashioned way isn't just a tradition at Red Deer Lake Meats, "It's a secret for success", says owner Brian Barrett, who has owned Red Deer Lake Meats for over 25 years. Processes aren't rushed, like at the major meat packers. At Red Deer Lake Meats, they hang their beef a traditional 21 days before cutting to the customers’ specifications. "It's the best way, for the best flavour and tenderness, but hardly anyone does it any more," says Brian. "It takes too much time, cuts into their profit and they don't have the space or the coolers.
"I love my job," says Brian. "life's a challenge every day." Brian, who lives just north of Okotoks has also been a real estate agent, been involved in the grocery business and farming. Red Deer Lake Meats was started more than 30 years ago and Brian says the challenge since he has owned the business has been to establish niche markets and thrive in the face of rivals such as global giants like Cargill Foods. "We do the things they can't do and excel at them". With about 20 full time employees, RDL Meats is a busy full service plant, smoking meat and preparing a variety of items such as sausages and hams. As well as its beef, RDL is known for the quality of a variety of other products. "We're famous for our slab bacon," says Brian. "It's smoked longer and has a better flavour." RDL Meats makes 13 varieties of smoked sausage, which are made from pure pork or beef and are convenient as a treat and serve specialty. "We have customers who come from all over Alberta to buy our sausage," says Brian. Hams are prepared the old way, smoked longer and slowly leaving less water content. "By our doing it the old fashioned way the customer gets more for their money. We have a complete plant here to prepare meat just the way the customer wants it." While fewer families are buying large orders, such as sides of beef which were popular several years ago, many families now want smaller freezer packs of beef, pork or lamb with a variety of cuts "We provide a better product for a good price. You save about 25 per cent on the cost of your meat and the quality is better."