Cressman Meat: 131 years driving to market takes a COVID detour
Family has taken products to market since the age of the horse and buggy
Business Mon, Mar 15th, 2021 Nigel Gordijk
Although Cressman Meat Ltd. is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the business has been operating much longer than that, and the family behind it has deep roots in the Region.
“Cressman has been going since 1951,” said Murray Cressman, the current owner. His mother Alice Shantz’s family has been selling their products at Kitchener Market since 1890.
“When my father married, he took over the stall and it became Cressman Meat. I’ve been involved full-time since 1976, but I went to the market long before that.”
Back in the late-nineteenth century, the family would travel from their home near Baden to Kitchener Farmers’ Market by horse and buggy during the summer. In winter, they’d go by sleigh, and Cressman’s grandmother would use hot bricks and blankets to keep her feet warm.
He, his wife Sherry, and their son Jesse are continuing to sell pork, beef, poultry and sausage products at Kitchener Market, as well as at the family’s recently refurbished store on Huron Street in New Hamburg, combining traditional recipes with modern practices. The family also has a stall at the Wilmot Summer Market.
“From what I know right now, vendors at farmers’ markets are struggling because the crowds of people aren’t coming,” said Cressman.
However, markets are still safe, he stressed, “They have very strict protocols in place to keep everybody safe.”
Proud of its rural links, the company’s website states, “We source our meat directly from local packers and distributors that support local farms and families.”
Access for custom killing is cause for concern for some farmers. While there are big, quota-based farmers who don’t need the butchering capacity, there are more and more who are doing direct marketing and sales. They need access to abattoirs and finish butchers, but there’s a province-wide shortage in Ontario.
Custom killing hasn’t caused any problems for Cressman Meat’s supply chain yet, although some independent retailers have been experiencing delays.
“I’ve heard people have to book a month in advance for custom killing,” said Cressman.
Adaptability over the years has kept the family business fresh. When times were tough during the 1920s and 1930s, they made butter, cooked cheese, breads, coffee cake, and cottage cheese. As well as their ever-popular sausages, the family would also sell its own maple syrup in the spring, plus all kinds of fresh garden vegetables in the summer.
Now, of course, the major challenge is due to the coronavirus.
“When COVID closed Kitchener Market last year for two months, we were doing curb-side pickup,” said Cressman. “When it reopened, it continued to the point where we decided to renovate and put in a retail store at our shop, which opened in December. Here, we produce sausage and some oven-ready products. We’re expanding our products all the time.”
Cressman thinks some smaller, independent food retailers are pretty busy because customers don’t enjoy the experience of shopping at big stores.
“That’s why we opened our own retail space at our shop,” he said.