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Eat & Drink

A new way to buy beef in Toronto

Posted by Luke Champion / December 26, 2010

West Side BeefThe idea for West Side Beef came when co-founder Kurt Krumme began to do some research into what's known as Freezer Beef. Basically, when an individual or group of individuals buy a side of beef - half a cow - and butcher it themselves.

The benefit is a product far superior to what you'd find at the grocery store, for a fraction of the price. The downside of course, and the difficulty for Krumme, is that most of us downtown elite types don't have the space to store half a cow, nor the ability to consume such a vast quantity of meat, never mind the knowledge, tools and facility necessary to take apart such a beast.

Luckily for Krumme, his good friend Ryan Donovan just happens to be the resident butcher at Marben on Wellington. Not only does Donovan have the know-how to disassemble a side of beef and portion it out appropriately, but through his background at The Healthy Butcher and years in the restaurant industry he's formed relationships with many local farmers, another thing most of us city folk lack.

West Side BeefNow, that's great for Krumme and all, but not everyone has a Ryan Donovan up their sleeve, which is where West Side Beef comes in. It's a simple concept really; Donovan and Krumme buy the steer, divvy it up into boxes of approximately 20-25lbs each, and sell each box for $165--$8.00 a pound.

"Basically what we do at West Side Beef is eliminate all the confusion about what you're going to pay versus what you're going to get. People pay a fixed price for a box and everything is clearly labeled, vac-packed and butchered properly," Donovan said.

Inside, what you'll find is a complete nose to tail representation of the animal, nothing is tossed away and everything is divided up equally. Fat is rendered down, bones are simmered into stock and the meat is chopped up and vacuum packed.

The meat - sourced from Dingo farms in Bradford, Ont. - is the same premium beef Marben uses on its menu. The cows are raised in pasture, grass fed and hormone free.

"Their product really is just the best, it's the only way to say it," Donovan says. "It's just got incredible flavour, they're really healthy animals. You can tell from the quality of the fat, the quality of the meat that the animals have eaten well consistently throughout their lives, as opposed to just being fed way too much at the end of their life."

West Side BeefAnother neat side effect of buying meat this way is that you begin to look at your food as more than a stack of strip loins. Because you're paying $8.00 or so per pound for all of it, no cut is of greater value than another, and because you don't have a say over what goes in your box, you learn to cook with everything. And while $8.00 may be a steep price for the ground beef comparatively, it's an absolute steal for the tenderloin.

At first Krumme and Donovan were just selling to their friends, but word is spreading fast. They're already getting to a point that if you don't sign up early, there's a good chance you might not get a box. But West Side Beef is prepared for a cautious expansion.

"Right now we try and do one every six or seven weeks," Donovan said. "But as demand grows we'll try and do it more regularly. I think if we were doing it once a week that wouldn't be such a bad thing."

As the business grows though, there are some trade offs.

"When we started I looked forward to pick up day," Krumme said. "It was an opportunity to see all these friends who I wouldn't normally. Meeting strangers is great too I suppose."



Dave Z / December 26, 2010 at 03:35 am
Attaboy Ry.
yodel kikka / December 26, 2010 at 08:45 am
oh yummy! an upscale m&m meats!

amazing / December 26, 2010 at 11:27 am
For anyone that's had grass fed cow, you'd know the difference.

It's much worth it.
blah / December 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm
meat is murder!
Stephen replying to a comment from blah / December 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm
An intelligent, well-measured response.
Sibel / December 26, 2010 at 01:04 pm
I've tried this beef and I almost lost my mind it was that delicious!!! I also felt really good after I ate it as I ate responsibly and knew that the animal had a good life with people who cared.
Lee replying to a comment from blah / December 26, 2010 at 01:08 pm
Tasty, tasty murder.
Bruno / December 26, 2010 at 01:20 pm
As a sous chef, i will tell you that this would be the greatest beef out there. Quality at its best. and most of all for your own health.
hillBillly / December 26, 2010 at 02:19 pm
All parts? I better not get any cow dick in my box.
Mike replying to a comment from hillBillly / December 26, 2010 at 02:28 pm
That's what she said
Shannon replying to a comment from hillBillly / December 26, 2010 at 03:03 pm
what you don't like rocky mountain oysters???????
Red Earth replying to a comment from blah / December 26, 2010 at 09:17 pm
Yummy, yummy murder.
Mad_Cow replying to a comment from blah / December 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm
@ blah
you mean "meat is MURDA!!!"

haha, i love meat. just had a nice turkey sandwich. holler!
Kurt / December 26, 2010 at 10:59 pm
We personally guarantee each box to be freaky-part free.

Thanks to everyone who came and checked out the site because of this article. We're really surprised at all the positive emails and sign-ups. We'll do our best to send answers to your questions and get you all some beef in the next few weeks.
irina / December 27, 2010 at 01:49 am
Great article. I've been thinking about getting meat this way but I'm a single person and don't really want anything to go bad. It's a great idea though. I'd love to be able to split it with people. That's a huge commitment but it's hard to get pasture raised, grass-fed only beef.
Kurt replying to a comment from irina / December 27, 2010 at 10:19 am
No problem Irina. Just email us and we'll help you work something out. Some people do share, others just freeze. A full box fits in a normal fridge-freezer with room to spare.
momo / December 27, 2010 at 04:58 pm
"Freaky-part free"? What do you mean by freaky? Will I never get tongue and tendon in my box of beef?
Kurt replying to a comment from momo / December 27, 2010 at 05:12 pm
Hehe, we're working on it momo. Right now we're using more of the animal than most, but there are a few cuts we don't get. Let us know if you want it though and we'll do our best to add it in to the repertoire in future.
BDunn / December 29, 2010 at 01:41 pm
YES! Great idea...
Rob Hyndman / November 8, 2011 at 06:53 pm
Best beef I've had. Amazingly good.
canine digestive problems / December 24, 2012 at 02:05 pm
The cautious rarely err.
Esther / February 27, 2013 at 06:12 pm
Their meat isn't even 100% grassfed. It's grain finished..
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