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Jul 3, 2007 07:43 AM

Question about Rowe Farms

Does anybody know about farming practices for Rowe Farms? I'm interested in getting free-range, sustainably produced meat and Rowe Farms products (chicken, beef, pork and eggs) are available in my grocery store. I don't live in Toronto, so going to places like the Healthy Butcher are not an option for me.

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  1. It's a very reputable company producing natural meats. started as a family farm, now is quite big with large distribution. i think it's now a network of farms, rather than one big farm. the animals are free of antibiotics and hormones, and graze on grass etc. places like karma co-op, which has stricter rules on the products they sell than most mainstream organic stores, carried rowe meats and eggs.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kasia

      I buy all of my chicken from Rowe or Clements at the Sat. market, and have been for years.
      If I need last minute shopping Cumbrae carries Clements.
      I can now buy rowe eggs at Loblaws, which makes it easier .
      I trust their organic products.
      Can't even imagine feeding my family hormone laden poultry.

      1. re: erly

        I wasn't aware Canadian chicken was hormone-laden, considering this practice has been banned for quite some time.

    2. It's a big business now, with no connection to Rowe Farm. They have recently hred a CEO from Loblaws, so it will be interesting to see how they market naturally raised food in the coming months.
      I prefer to get naturally raised beef, pork and sausages from beefconections, as I can talk to the grower before I place an order.

      1. Can anyone comment on whether the farms in the Rowe Farm network use pesticides or GMO-free feed? I heard some claims from an organic retailer, but unfortunately, I can't find an official website to corroborate or contradict this assertion. For those that may be concerned about what the animals eat, does anyone have more information?

        10 Replies
        1. re: gnuf

          Consumers Health Canada, a non profit org. lists them as organic.
          You could call directly to Rowe at 519 822 8794
          They are in the Guelph area.
          Also to Jay, I am in the process of ordering bacon from the beefconnection, as suggested by the helpful people here, but I don't think that they sell poultry.
          I am always open to new suggestions for organic poultry, if anyone is aware of an alternative.
          The chickens are all to white, as compared to the golden brown grain fed chickens available in Europe.

          1. re: gnuf

            I can't say definitively, but I did overhear a conversation between a clerk and a customer about this very issue a couple days ago. The clerk explained that they can't guarantee that the feed is 100% organic - there may have been pesticides involved in the feed production. But it's definitely vegetarian feed and the animals themselves are raised naturally, in a free-run environment.

            1. re: Kitchen Imp

              i have been buying rowe farm eggs and on the carton, it says free of antibiotics but does not mention hormones.. so i checked their website just now and it doesn't clarify this. however, the website does mention they sell 2 types of eggs. their rowe farm eggs from caged hens(!) and their green valley eggs are from free run hens. i had always just assumed that eggs that are free of antibiotics (and hopefully hormones too) are always free run but I realize now that I am wrong.

              Also, I always assume organic eggs (Rowe Farm eggs are not organic) are always from free run hens... but now I am not so sure. Can anyone confirm/deny?

              1. re: helenhelen

                Hormones have been banned for 50+ years in Canadian chickens or eggs. Antibiotics cannot show up in eggs, but they are allowed in the growth stage of the bird. Here is a summary,

                Organic chickens are completely drug free, although sick birds can be treated by a vet, and sold off as non organic.

                Organically raised chickens must have a free run barn floor, which can be quite crowded, and they must have access to outdoors, usually through a pet door, but the outdoors is often a concrete or dirt patch in the barnyard. A few outdoor flocks are pastured, but this is rare and costly.

                1. re: jayt90

                  according to that website then, all canadian eggs and dairy (i'm not personally concerned with meat since i'm vegetarian) are free of hormones and antibiotics, including standard non-organic supermarket fare. is this really true? i deduced this from the following:

                  "In Canada, growth hormones are only given to beef cattle (and not dairy cattle). There are no growth hormones used in poultry or pork production."

                  but then also:

                  "Dairy cattle do not receive growth hormones so you do not need to limit conventional milk or milk products."


                  "For animal products, if a cow is treated with antibiotics because of an infection, the milk they produce while being treated is not sold."

                  therefore, all dairy products in canada are hormone and antibiotic free?

                  and with regards to eggs:

                  "There are no growth hormones used in poultry or pork production."


                  "When hens are given antibiotics, the eggs they lay are thrown away."

                  therefore, all eggs produced in canada are free of hormones or antibiotics?

                  i find this hard to believe though. is this really true? am i missing something in my interpretation of what is stated on the website?

                  1. re: helenhelen

                    This is exactly why organic milk in Canada is nothing but a marketing scam.

                    1. re: sbug206

                      I'm confused sbug206. Why is organic milk in Canada a marketing scam? Do cows that produce organic milk not receive organically grown feed?

                      Can you elaborate??

                    2. re: helenhelen

                      I believe you interrupted the info correctly. Might be hard to believe that egg producers throw away eggs but that is an other question.
                      Is there any evidence that anyone has ever been harmed by beef with hormones in it? I assume this would have to be US information.

                      1. re: Herne

                        Herne, I have often seen USDA beef for sale, and USDA pork, in sale bins especially at NoFrills. Whenever back ribs go on sale, in any supermarket, they are often wrapped in cryovac and clearly marked USDA. I admit to buying the pork ribs, but never the U.S. beef. I guess I should find out more about what goes into USDA pork and beef. Even Costco and Loblaws sell USDA Choice (roughly equivalent to Canada AAA) beef from time to time.

                        1. re: Herne

                          if you google bovine growth hormone, you should get some info..

              2. I'm not in a position to comment about the farming practices of Rowe Farms, other than to note that I do see their products in stores that claim to exercise close oversight.

                I AM in a position to say that I do not find the products from Rowe Farms to be of especially high quality. The red meats are banal, the chickens are very white (oddly so if naturally raised and minimally processed) and not especially flavourful, and the deli products lack any savour. YMMV.

                18 Replies
                1. re: embee

                  Do you have another organic chicken suggestion?
                  As you can see, I am in total agreement with you on the "white" chickens.
                  Clements are the same colour, as are all non-organic..
                  Would like to find the golden brown (organic) chickens, which are much tastier, but have not had any luck.
                  Have not had a really "great" chicken in many years.
                  The real tell-tale slide in chicken quality is the capon.
                  Once a heavenly delight, but now not much different in taste to the roaster..

                  1. re: erly

                    Check out Beretta Organic Farms. Their products are carried at some Toronto Stores (eg. The Butcher's--on Yonge across from Sporting Life), or you can order online. Lots of variety and not too expensive.

                    1. re: Yongeman

                      A quick look at the Beretta website does not say much about the raising of their poultry, or even if they do it. The birds are raised like their pigs and cattle. Could be indoors, with a bit of outdoor exposure.
                      Price points from Beretta are reasonable but there is a minimum order of $150.
                      Has anyone tried chicken from Butchers on Yonge?

                      I'll definitely be trying Dominion"s trsditionally raised chicken, now that embee says it tastes very good.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        Beretta's is widely available at retail in normal retail packaging. I know that the Big Carrot sells it and I'm sure I've seen it occasionally at some supermarkets. Again, the fresh products have not been special and the deli stuff has been very poor. It's really discouraging.

                        As to the Dominion product, I've had it several times, simply roasted, and it was good each time. A friend just made one and wasn't impressed. Please advise of your experience.

                        1. re: embee

                          Just tried the Dominion chicken and it was good, but no better than Maple Leaf grain fed birds. Both are battery raised, just as Beretta's. Beretta may have a picture of hens outdoors, but they don't give us any details so I am assuming indoors, and not even their farm. They may achieve organic status by allowing a few hours of outdoor activity per week. That's what the hogs get, as there only need be a minimal pasture available to several hundred animals per farm (they are very destructive and do less damage inside.)

                          Free ranging hens are difficult to raise, as there are predators (Beretta mentions this), so a brief outdoor exposure per week will meet the organic requirement.

                          1. re: jayt90

                            In theory, all kosher chickens are free ranging. However, I do emphasize the "in theory". You can open the door, but you can't assume the chicken wants to go outside :-) I don't think caged battery raised chickens can be certified kosher.

                            Unfortunately, none of the locally available kosher chickens are really wonderful. I'm also not aware of any local distributor of kosher chickens that makes an "organic" claim.

                            I have seen comments in several different places about producers deciding to keep chickens indoors because of avian flu concerns. Some of the arguments seem plausible, but I'm not in any position to validate any particular claims.

                        2. re: jayt90

                          If you read how the pigs and cattle are raised, in the two paragraphs above the poultry description ( ), it appears that they have plenty of access to the outdoors. I haven't been there, but that appears to be integral to the raising of their livestock.
                          Some Beretta meat products were being sold at the Dufferin Grove market last year, not sure about this year. I buy lean and extra lean ground beef via a co-op at about $3.99/lb.

                      2. re: erly

                        I started to think about this and realized, shockingly, that I was almost stumped.

                        The colour of the chicken skin doesn't have much relationship to a chicken's provenance or quality. It can be manipulated easily through diet. Perdue chickens (one of the poorest quality brands in the US) have a vivid yellow skin due to, supposedly, marigold petals in their diet. Some producers may manipulate skin colour in ways that are not benign. But I don't know how one would get the shockingly white skin colour except by bleaching it in some way during wet processing. This was the norm in Ontario 30 years ago and things have actually improved since then.

                        Meat on the Beach has really good chickens and is emphasizing naturally raised and organic products. But I don't know for sure whether these birds are, in fact, organic. Ernesto, the owner, would know, but much of their staff lacks both product knowledge and communication skills.

                        Dominion sells some chickens labeled "traditionally raised". There are claims regarding diet and drugs, though I doubt these products would merit the "naturally raised" designation. They are certainly not organic. But they taste VERY good.

                        I've also heard good things about Fresh From the Farm, though I haven't tried their chickens. Again there are claims about provenance, but no actual certifications.

                        1. re: erly

                          The jury is not out on Rowe Farms with me. I haven't had any of their red meat, I love their bacon, breakfast sausage and Toulouse. There eggs are fine, for the price, apparently the chickens are in high density cages. Quality aside I am not sure of their farming practices and have sent them two emails with questions, no response. I will follow them up with a phone call when I get around to it.
                          As for where to find those beautiful chickens, Vince Gasparro's at 857 Bloor Street West but they run out quickly, Max the Butcher on Baldwin at Augusta and Butcher By Nature at 520 Annette St are my faourites.

                          1. re: chef_vegabond

                            I was under the impression that the Rowe Farms "Green Valley" eggs come from free-run hens rather than caged.

                            Rowe Farms
                            912 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M, CA

                            1. re: freebee

                              When I read their description of the hens' living area, it comes out as a large barn floor with droppings, (maybe there is straw, periodic cleaning). The hens can run freely, but are their beaks clipped so they won't peck each other? Don't know.
                              All we do know is that they run freely indoors.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                I spoke at length about this with one of the butchers. I was told that the eggs sold at Rowe Farms storefronts come from hens who spend 30% of their lives out-of-doors, which is a lot considering the weather here.

                                1. re: Kitchen Imp

                                  That doesn't say anything about the conditions they are in for the remaining 70%. Nor does it explain why some of the eggs they sell (one of the two options commonly found in grocery stores) are clearly labelled as coming from standard caged product. (The other carton indicates the eggs are from "free-run" hens.)

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    I don't know anything about their eggs in grocery stores - as noted in my post, I only heard about eggs sold at Rowe Farms shops themselves. Sounds like it's an entirely different product, which I agree is misleading.

                        2. re: embee

                          What kind of deli products are you looking for? I think Fresh From the Farm's suppliers do a good job with products such as bacon, fresh sausage and probably summer sausage (haven't actually tried theirs but generally the Mennonites' summer sausage is awesome). Maybe not gourmet, but good quality simple stuff that presumably they've been making for years rather than recently capitilizing on a demand for naturally raised meat.

                          Of course as you mention they only have claims as to how the meat is raised, no certification, and I don't know if all ingredients for the deli would pass muster.

                          I know I bought some Rowe Farms summer sausage on a whim and it was indeed tasteless and rubbery. And it still had nitrite.

                          1. re: julesrules

                            I'm less concerned with organic cred than with taste. I'd start with simple things such as, say, beef franks, beef salamis, and smoked turkey. I don't eat pork. I've found the Rowe and Beretta stuff to be awful.

                            1. re: embee

                              I am aware of the perdue chickens ghastly yellow colour.
                              Grain fed chicken have a natural golden brown, that only extreme bleaching would destroy.
                              I spend a great deal of time in Europe (business), and the chickens there have the grain fed look and taste.
                              My parents bought Kosher chickens , and they were always delicious (needed additional plucking, as feathers were never entirely removed).
                              I went that route, but although not as white, the several brands I tested were better than supermarket standards, but not organic.
                              As of my last inquiry, there is no organic kosher chicken on the market, and in this instance, I will stay with the less tasty organics.
                              I have noticed that Clements wasn't mentioned by anyone else.
                              They gave up their organic label, as they didn't want the additional cost, but welcome a visit to their farm.
                              Now the sceptics are making me nervous about Rowe's, I will stick to Clements until something better comes along.

                              1. re: embee

                                I'm going to grab some Berkshire pork from them today. I'll let post back on here with a report on how it tasted.

                          2. Local Flavour Plus seems to be compiling a reasonable local/organic list to start with. It's the most lame website I've seen in a while, but if they keep up the info it's appreciated. Hope this helps.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Googs

                              I agree with the comment on Rowe Farm. I used to buy from them years ago, but it was never clear to what degree they were natural/organic. My experience with the Butcher was similar - I found the chiken watery.

                              I am now raising some laying hens, and what I can tell you is that the difference in the price of organic feed versus conventional feed is HUGE. Anyone selling "natural" is not buying organic feed. I try to buy organic chicken directly from a small farmer. My favourite Toronto shop is the Healthy Butcher on Queen Street.

                              1. re: Googs

                                The weblink goes to something rather unsavoury now. Here's the new one: