Downtown butcher feeds on growth

When Farm and Field Butchers opened this week, it joined downtown businesses catering to the growing number of residents making their home in the core.

The 1003 Blanshard St. location was an easy choice for owner-operator Rebecca Teskey.

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For one thing, condominiums and rental apartments are under construction in the city’s core.

Just look around to spot all the cranes.

Those urban dwellers are doing a lot of their living outside of their homes, and shop locally and often, she said.

Downtown is “smack in the middle of neighbourhoods that are already interested in good food,” Teskey said. She has Discovery Coffee on one side and is adjacent to The Livet restaurant.

“Buying food that is close to home is actually what creates food security,” Teskey said.

The concept of Farm and Field means being aware about where food comes from and how it is grown and raised, she said.

Most of the shop’s products are organic, free-range or raised in pastures, she said.

The shop joins established food businesses downtown, such as the Market on Yates and the stores in Chinatown.

Victoria’s population in 2015 was estimated at 84,793 by B.C. Stats. It is expected to grow by 20,000 in the next 30 years, according to the city’s official community plan. The urban core is predicted to receive 50 per cent of that growth, the plans says. The 2011 census put the downtown population at 2,740, but numbers will have grown since then given the rapid pace of development.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Teskey spent a decade in the San Francisco-Berkeley area working as a cook and becoming increasingly interested in how animals are raised.

She was a part-owner of a butcher shop in Oak Bay for six years. She sold her stake in that shop to set up Farm and Field with six full-time staff, a group she praises for their dedication. Training as a butcher was on-the-job for Teskey, who believes in using as much of the animal as possible.

“We specialize in whole-animal butchery,” she said. “I always believe in using every last bit. We make very, very rich stock.”

She will buy up to 200 chickens per week, one cow, up to eight pigs, plus lamb, mutton, rabbits, duck and turkeys, which are free-range from Cowichan.

Located in 1,700 square feet, store shelves are stocked with products made by Teskey in the shop’s commercial kitchen, such as bacon jam, steak sauce, pickled onions and duck confit.

A dozen varieties of the shop’s sausages fill the display case, along with steaks, marinated chicken halves, lamb and other cuts.

Customers want information such as how an animal was fed, said Russ Benwell, spokesman for the Red Barn Country Market Ltd.

Red Barn is opening a new store in Esquimalt in early 2017 and another in James Bay in 2018 in the new Capital Park development, near the legislature.

“They [customers] want to know the cut of meat that they are getting ... where it is being sourced, is it ethically raised, are there antibiotics, are there growth hormones? What were these animals raised on? It is becoming very, very important for people to really know the source of origin for the animal.”

Red Barn is seeing a high demand for Island-raised, Island-grown products, Benwell said.

Another new butcher shop, Cornerstone Meats at 1420 Quadra St., opened downtown five months ago. It specializes in halal meat, which means an animal must be raised and slaughtered according to Islamic procedures.

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