VG Meats is more than a business – we’re a family with a long history in farming, butchering and giving back to our community. We grew up in the meat shop, where we watched our mom and dad spend long hours on the business. Working with a small team, they really only took breaks for the essentials of life and parenting (which included running us around between sports games and other extracurriculars). When we were out of school, it came down to a choice for mom: either send her four sons to a sitter or bring us to work with them. She usually chose the latter, and while some may call it child labour, if you were an observer you would see it as our family’s quality time. As kids, we found it exhilarating. We took pride in the family business from an early age, and by the time we graduated high school, each of us was as good of a butcher as any. We can thank our dad for that – or maybe he, us – but really, we’d all say that no thanks is needed.
As young adults, we all left the farm to explore other careers, but were drawn back by the potential to have a big impact on the industry, the community and our environment. So maybe it’s time you got to know our story a bit better. While our pictures are on the website and you can see us working on the farm and in our retail store, here’s a little backstory and who we are and why we devote ourselves to VG Meats.
The butchery story most often begins with Grandpa (Cornelius Van Groningen) as a black-market butcher in Amsterdam during the Second World War. They were hiding livestock from the German army, who were taking the agricultural products from the locals to feed their troops. Once the war was over, Grandpa came to Canada searching for an opportunity in tobacco. However, the cost to enter the industry had risen so fast that it was no longer an option for him and his family to own a tobacco farm. Instead he went back to butchery biz. At that time, Dad was 17. The oldest of 4 children, he committed his career and savings to the business. When dad talks of the long hours and hard work, I can envision the mission he was on to grow the business and provide a strong future for his family. We have inherited that vision, and as four brothers, have molded it to fit our experiences and the times.
I feel that food and farming is the pinnacle of a great society. To be able to feed people well, and efficiently, getting them a great nutrition is directly linked to how strong and happy our communities can be. Our family is committed to building a strong community because doing so is the sweetest fruit of our labour.
For my brothers and I, the journey began as kids running around the butcher shop with various tasks, and then as teenagers helping to renovate an old dairy farm into our current beef farm. It was in 2003 that Cory and Chad (first and second born, respectively) went all in on the business. Then it was Kyle and I (third and fourth born, respectively) in 2008. Cory had studied agriculture and business while Chad learned a trade and honed his handyman skills. Kyle played Junior A & B hockey from age 15 to age 20, and I studied Agricultural Science, taking any meat science course available at the University of Guelph.
Since we have set off on our mission, we have been through a lot already. We have gone through a construction phase, which as anyone who has gone through big construction projects will tell you, is rough.
We had a major ramping up phase with our trusty partner Longo’s. We faced challenges such as several consecutive years of low grass production on the farms, lots of new butcher/employee on-boarding, the addition of a retail store, and our meat becoming available in notable restaurants.
I believe we can make positive change to our families, communities and environment by creating the world’s best beef. We will continue to offer beef that outperforms on the plate, is better for the environment, and is good for you.
Our customers are a huge part of this change and this vision – and we’re grateful to each one of them for supporting our business. We look forward to the opportunity to provide to you for years to come!