When you pull up the driveway to Bob Hahn’s farm, Hahn Cattle Co., you might think it’s a typical angus operation. However, tucked away in an unassuming Quonset is a custom-built storefront with display freezers and a dry-ager that prepares high-end quality cuts of beef for local consumers.
Accountant by day, Angus producer by night, Edmonton producer Hahn has been involved in the industry for decades. After taking over the family farm, Hahn’s driving force has always been “How can I build a better cow?” But over the years it has evolved to “How can a build a better farm business?” and, more recently, “How does the farm make the greatest impact to my community?”
From genetics to hand feeding and finishing – every animal has had the utmost thought and care put into it. Now, one might think that a high-end feed and custom supplementation program dedicated to individual animals is expensive. How could it possibly be profitable?
“My goal, years ago, was to figure out how to somehow, rather than just get commercial prices out of cattle, get three times that,” Hahn shares. “While I decided to get out of the commercial game, the purebred game is also tough and doesn’t get me that triple margin either.”
That is where Hahn’s background as a professional accountant kicks in. Why put in premium efforts in raising cattle only to receive commercial level prices in return? Bob’s operation flips the traditional model of selling cattle on its head. Leaving the commercial business and taking the premium mark-up for himself, Bob has built a direct market business. He relies on long-standing relationships with local Edmonton abattoirs and a custom-built store front to capitalize on the ‘buy local’ movement. He listens to customers and adjusts his products to meet their requests. Recently, this included producing aged cuts, beef jerky, and creating “gift boxes” that could be given to thank others or celebrate milestones.
“My goal is not to compete with the big chains — my target audience is those folks who want high quality and consistent products,” says Hahn.
While the striploins, T-bones and tenderloins fly off the shelves of Hahn’s business, the round steaks and ground beef take a little longer to move. Instead of going to waste, Hahn donates these cuts to two charities near and dear to his heart.
“I’ve repositioned how I think about charitable donations and community giving. Rather than a monetary donation, I rethought my donations and now I am doing something very specific and giving to those who I think could use protein as a part of their program.”
Just this year alone, Hahn has donated the equivalent of 920 meal portions of red meat to the Old Strathcona Youth Society (OSYS). Located on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue, the OSYS space is dedicated to providing purposeful resources and creating a safe and supportive environment that fosters youth empowerment and development. In addition to the youth centre, Hahn has gifted over 840 meal portions of red meat to the Jellinek Society; a recovery house with a mission to provide recovery support to men with early drug or alcohol addiction.
Shannon Proano, an outreach worker with OSYS said, “Red meat is something that our youth often don’t get because they can’t afford it, or other programs cannot provide it. Typical hampers include a lot of staple items, which are often full of carbs or sugar, and not necessarily very nutritious. Our youth are very happy when their hampers include two servings of either ground or stewed beef, and we usually provide them with other staples so they can make a hearty meal. Having access to red meat gives them more food variety, which encourages them to learn how to cook new things that are also a lot more nutritious.”
The challenge for every producer is to continue to adapt their operation to be profitable and meet the customers’ changing preferences. So that leaves the question, “What’s next at Hahn Cattle Co.?” The innovation continues with marketing of beef parts that often go to waste and welcoming more people from the city to come and visit a working farm. “The biggest win for our industry is the “farm experience” – city folks who want to understand where food comes from and just to see a cow”, laughs Hahn.
Building a successful beef business allows Hahn to give back to his community through providing an authentic experience and providing protein to those who need it most.
This article was first published in Volume 1 Issue 4 edition of ABP Magazine (November 2021) under ‘Beef Gives Back.’ Watch for more digital content from the magazine on ABP Daily.
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