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Rowe Farms opening in Leslieville!

Around Queen and Logan, got it straight from the horse's mouth at a cocktail party last night. Very, very exciting news.

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  1. Not familiar with Rowe Farms, why is this exciting? Organic foods, free range meats, all or none of the above? :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pincus

      all of the above and more -
      http://www.rowefarms.ca/

    2. When? When? When? I'm so excited because I just live up the street, not even a 5 minute walk. Really happy I'll be able to buy grass-fed beef steaks so close. It may not be Argentine steaks, but certainly the best local juicy substitutes! :)

      1. More details please! After being disappointed (so far) with Lady & Son Butcher this is certainly excellent news.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Vise

          I'm not sure, I was chatting with a guy at a party, his firm invests in Rowe Farms amongst other companies. Probably be a while yet, I don't see any spots in that area in the midst of reno.

          1. re: Vise

            Do tell, Vise, what was the cause of your disappointment with Lady & Son? I love her free-range chicken, but have yet to buy some beef from her.

            1. re: singe

              I've bought lamb from Lady and Son and it was quite flavourful, she threw in extra meat for me too and some bones for soup. I cannot complain. I suspect, although they are still improving, most of the negative reviews came from early on. Thus far I personally haven't had a bad experience there.

          2. While a Rowe Farms store, assuming the rumours are true, will be a welcome addition to the neighbourhood, I am not trembling with excitement.

            I have tried, and been served, their products many times. I have never found their products impressive, from the unmarbled steaks to the very white chickens that appear water processed. I just had some Rowe Farms hamburger last night. Bought at the Pape IGA, it came in the high-tech packaging designed to extend shelf life. It smelled odd (not spoiled, but definitely odd). It tasted like ... lean hamburger.

            Their beautiful website is very clever - especially in what it does NOT say. Rowe farming practices sound wonderful, but I wonder whether their animals are raised under the conditions implied, and shown, on that website. The three cows posed against the beautiful autumnal background....

            Note that Rowe does not declare their products to be either "organic" or "natural". These terms can be wildly abused, but I still need to wonder about their absence. Methinks Rowe Farms has grown beyond the small family farm stage into an operation that, though still relatively small, is more of an "agribusiness".

            Their comments on nitrites are particularly galling. What they say isn't exactly untrue, but it is disingenuous to the extreme. I use nitrite in my homemade pastrami - because it doesn't taste right if I leave it out. I don't imply that I use this chemical because it is healthy or because it poses no risks. (I don't use it in corned beef because the resulting product, though a weird gray, tastes great without it.). Nitrite is NOT good for you, but deli products such as frankfurters that don't contain any tend to be awful. (BTW, celery juice is a great source of nitrites.) See food science guru Harold McGee's comments on this at:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/04/din...

            But, overall, I find that Rowe's products are marketing hype that are not high quality and just don't deliver on the taste front. For "humanely raised" meats that carry no claim of being either "organic" or natural", I'll go with Cumbrae's any time. I just hope that Stephen at Cumbrae's, whose enthusiasm for his product is infectious, doesn't get too big or greedy.

            1 Reply
            1. re: embee

              The Rowe site claims to have 100% air dried chicken. It is still indoor poultry (including eggs). The site rails on and on about nitrates in cured meats, but they have merely substituted nitrites, as in (almost) every other commercially available cured meat. I have heard of exceptions in Tenessee, and at Eigensinn, but not at Rowe.

            2. Please any new info yet? I'm sure a lot of people here would be interested in an update. Merry Christmas everyone!!! :)

              1. i was at the rowe farms retail store in guelph over the holidays and the cashier said that there is indeed a rowe farms opening on 'queen east'. according to her the intended opening date was February, but that they are behind schedule. she said the new retail space would be 'gorgeous', presumably 'gorgeous' being relative the the bare bones utilitarian industrial strip mall outlet they have in guelph.

                i've never had much rowe farms stuff except for chicken (pretty standard) and sandwich meats (quite tasty). the pre-packaged steaks we bought at the store in guelph were only fair. i'm sure i would have done better by asking at the counter for a thicker cut.

                hopefully they'll take a cue from cumbrae's and go for an upscale retail space with plentiful high quality cuts

                1. Your expectations need not be set very high. The Rowe family is not connected to the current enterprises; what we have is an ad hoc group using an established name. The meats come from several farms; how the produce is controlled and dispersed is not very clear. There is a similar phenomenom with Kerr Farms (Angus) in Chatham, where many other producers, across the province, are invited to participate. There is a certain amount of marketing and hype in these two brands, and for most of us, we should remember caveat emptor.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: jayt90

                    I was searching for restaurants to go to in the east end of T.O and came across this site and this board. I had to register and respond to this.
                    I have been buying Rowe Farms Meats for many years from their St. Lawrence Market station. I have tried various brands of organic and natural meat, such as, FieldGate/Beretta/Hallelula/Cumbraes ... and to be honest I had a terrible experience with one of FieldGate especially, and found the others were no greater than Rowe Farms and more expensive. The main difference I did notice and the reason I am a loyal customer of Rowe Farms is the consisntency. That is what keeps me buying there meat. I am not going to pretend to be a meat specialist, but as a customer nothing bothers me more then not receiving consistent product quality, and with Rowe Farms I have yet to be disappointed.

                    And my understanding is that Jon Rowe is still involved ... he is at the St. Lawrence market often on Saturdays and seems extremely aware and excited about the direction his company is headed in.

                    I have been eating their meat for approx. 3 years now, and I am confident to recommend it.

                    If I lived in this area, I would be most excited about this. If this new butcher shop is in fact Rowe then your neighborhood is lucky!

                    1. re: sam zahler

                      I'm happy to hear of your experience. I hope I'll get to share it, since I live just a block away. But my experience has been very different, as my previous post details.

                      I haven't enjoyed FieldGate or Beretta, and I haven't tried Hallelula since their prices seemed out of line.

                      I've had much better luck with Cumbrae's quality/consistency/taste, though they are certainly far from perfect.

                    2. re: jayt90

                      Rowe farm started 30 yrs. ago at John Rowe's farm in Guelph. John Rowe is still involved as Sam has stated also. All Natural/Organic Meat producers, Rowe/ Cumbrae/ Beretta all have other farms. Rowe Farm Meats (other Farms) are audited by the University of Guelph to make sure that they are being fed and raised within the protocols set by John Rowe. John's main concern with beef that is being raised Today, is the use of corn in the diet which is not part of their natural diet. Corn creates an acidic environment in cattle's stomachs, in-turn that acid goes back into the soil and screws with the natural P.H. of the land. Corn does create the sought after Marbling in beef, hence the un-marbled steaks that Embee had commented about earlier. Jayt90 I suggest you go and talk with John at the Market.

                      1. re: thomasevan

                        This link http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0geu8JWnn9... diissociates rowefarms.com from the meat selling group with an ex-Loblaw CEO. I can tell you that the link, when it worked, said the Rowe farm had no connection with rowefarms.ca Possibly the differences have been ironed out, or perhaps rowefarms.com believes it is time to move on. Whatever I say is speculation.

                        I'm not sure it's fair to include Cumbrae's in a group with Beretta and Rowe. Stephen has no farms, but works with a small group who can deliver to his specs; beef marbling and aging and cutting are quite a bit better than the others, and the price can be higher. (For a superb low price intro, ask Stephen for a boneless shoulder steak!

                        )

                        A story about Rowe beef in a farm magazine in 2006 http://www.investeco.com/documents/fa... explains how their beef cannot be as tender: years ago they switched from Angus to Charolais cows, but retained an English cross-bred bull. This produces leaner meat than from the smaller, fattier Angus carcasses.

                        The most disturbing aspect of the Rowe operation is the corporate influence from outsiders who want to cash in on a good thing. They apparently control the board and will make their presence known, perhaps sooner rather than later.

                        1. re: jayt90

                          That was a VERY enlightening article!

                          (1) Rowe has consciously chosen to trade off eating quality rather than developing high quality naturally raised meat

                          (2) Rowe has relinquished control over the business to the financial suits. He retains "control" over "certain principles", which is completely meaningless since he "doesn't want the final say"

                          (3) Rowe is "fairly flexible on breed types" which means, by definition, unreliable product consistency

                          (4) Priority is now "capacity to supply demand" rather than "developing new markets". There is no mention of producing great testing meat - even as a minor priority

                          (5) There's much talk about how the animals are fed, and the environmental implications of their feeding, but nothing about how they are treated during their lives

                          (6) I understand the point about "organic corn", but organically raised cows need not be fed any corn. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding something not explicitly stated (the five points above are explicit), but it seems to me that Rowe is producing food that could not be sold as "certified organic"

                          (7) Investeco is a pure financial play. It's nothing more than a mutual fund offering investment opportunities in a relatively untapped, and growing, financial market, "environmental investing". There is no mention of organic production, high quality, or great taste as elements of the mix. There's nothing wrong with that, but let's tell it like it is. This is a venture fund with financial targets and exit strategies, and nothing more. The initial investment is insufficient to achieve their smallest goals, so I would expect the investor influence to increase substantially (unless they decide to bail).

                          (8) The Organic Meadow connection is interesting. I've tried most, if not all, of this expensive product line. It isn't very good. Some "conventional" and "mainstream" products taste significantly better. Taste Organic Meadow's whipping cream against Hewitt's (no "organic" or "natural" claims) or Dairyland (mega corporate, mainstream, UHT) and tell me with a straight face that Organic Meadow tastes better.

                          I wasn't impressed with Rowe meats when it was a small family farm. Now Rowe has sold his soul for financial gain. There's nothing wrong with that either, but let's not fudge the truth. Sorry sam zahler and thomasevan. I'd like to see great meat at Queen and Logan but my expectations are even lower than before.

                          I can't help but wonder about Investeco's exit strategy (which every venture fund must have). Perhaps a future division of Maple Leaf Foods, or Cargill? It'll be interesting and I wish them well. I just hope Stephen Alexander at Cumbrae's doesn't get too greedy.

                          1. re: embee

                            Touch wood and don't even think it....ever again embee!

                            1. re: millygirl

                              Can we not all just be happy another 'foodie' type store is going up in Leslieville???

                              Opening is set for March 1st now - I have heard.

                              1. re: LvilleLocal

                                Ha ha, that's not the way it works around here!

                                I guess the guy I first got the info about the opening from is a bigwig at Investeco. Very interesting article. Looking forward to trying them out and tasting for myself.

                    3. I suspect it's going in the store next to Starbucks, across from the Leslieville Cheese Market. It's recently renovated and up for lease. A small store though, so I could be wrong, but Michael at the cheese shop did say that a butcher's was going in across the street from him.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Luckysod

                        That store is now leased, so I suspect that's the place.

                      2. Rowe Farms is now open. It's a lovely little store with a fairly good meat selection and a very small but well edited selection of condiments.

                        There aren't any surprises. The meat is professionally cut and looks attractive (unlike what I experienced at Lady & Son). It's much the same as what they sell at the Big Carrot, only there's more of it.

                        The meat costs at least as much as Cumbrae's. While hardly bad, it isn't nearly as nice as what Cumbrae's stocks and they don't have the same kind of professional skills or personal service in the store. There are no visible facilities for aging or serious custom cutting.

                        As expected, the high end beef cuts have very little marbling. I don't consider this an advantage. I'd rather have the full beef experience and eat a smaller portion. The deli is (as I knew it would be) blah. It's all highly overprocessed, commercial style meat that doesn't turn me on. There's no prepared food.

                        So Rowe Leslieville meets my expectations, but my expectations weren't very high. I'll be trying them over the coming weeks, because they are there, and I certainly hope they are successful. But I've eaten Rowe meats many times before and I don't expect this location to have anything different. It is extremely expensive meat, not certified organic, that looks acceptable but not luscious. I expect that's how it will cook up, and taste, as well. I will certainly report what I find.

                        Side note: the large organics store on the south side of Queen is gone, locked out by the landlord. Not surprising and, in my opinion, no loss.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: embee

                          embee, again thanks for an amazing review! :)

                          I walked by the store yesterday, but didn't have time to stop in. The sign in the front says the grand opening will be on Saturday and Sunday. Wonder if that means this weekend or did it just pass already? Anyway, I'm gonna try to stop by on Saturday for some products.

                          1. re: embee

                            I bought some sausages from Rowe over the weekend. New Mexico variety. I asked the butcher what that meant and he said he wasn't too sure. Probably some chilis and cumin. So no points for knowledge. As far as the product itself, nothing special. Nice chili flavour, but I wasn't astounded by the consistency of the meat. the price wasn't too bad, though. It was a little over $5 for 4 sausages. I think you'd spend more than that from the Loblaws deli counter. Plus, you get a free re-usable bag. I'll probably go back, but this place isn't becoming a pillar of my food sourcing.

                            1. re: grandgourmand

                              Yeah, I honestly haven't been impressed with what's on offer at Rowe Farms - they need to age their meat. And meanwhile, Lady & Sons continues to blow me away, it's a great place and she deserves the business. Voula aka "Lady" is getting me a full rack of venison ribs so I can christen my new BBQ properly, I can't wait.

                              1. re: childofthestorm

                                I have to agree on Rowe. We stopped in the other day and walked out without a purchase which is pretty unusual for me. But truthfully nothing caught my eye or looked appealing. I will though make a point of checking out Lady and Sons. Maybe she can get some lamb ribs in for me.

                                1. re: millygirl

                                  Yeah, she'll special order anything.

                                2. re: childofthestorm

                                  Rowe is, unfortunately, proving to be exactly what I expected it to be, but hoped it wouldn't be. I'll shop there occasionally, since it's a couple of minute's walk from where I live, but I won't ever be a regular customer.

                                  It's a shame when marketing triumphs over quality in the name of profit. As I've said before, they are good for the neighbourhood and I hope they succeed. But their meat is neither "natural" nor "organic", and does not taste especially wonderful. I've had tastier beef from the Certified Angus counter at the horrible Leslie St Loblaws. Rowe's processed stuff is, IMHO, just terrible. For their prices, I'd want more - much more - than they deliver. And I find the OMAFRA info on them simply shocking.

                                  I don't really understand the situation at Lady & Son. Some of you have loved the place while others have had the same experience that I had. In short, several visits, nothing worth even trying.

                              2. re: embee

                                Stopped in quickly yesterday on my lunch hour to have a peek. Nice store in general, but it irks me when a butcher/meat store pre-packages most of their meat in styrofoam trays - kind of takes away from the whole shopping experience in my opinion, and not so enviro friendly to boot. I will shop there due to its close proximity, but I really wish it was the Healthy Butcher - which I finally visited on the weekend - a great store that I wish was closer to me.

                                1. re: bigos70

                                  I have some quibbles about Healthy Butcher. Their choice to make everything extremely low in fat ruins some otherwise enticing prospects (the unmarbled red meat; the dry sausages; the housemade pastrami that is too dry to chew and swallow).

                                  But I give them full credit for maintaining a quality standard, promoting unconventional cuts, customizing orders, educating customers, and trying to make some good tasting prepared food.

                                  Rowe is nothing more than a venture fund with a timely investment philosophy. Period.

                                  1. re: bigos70

                                    I stopped into Rowe just after it opened and I was also unimpressed by the amount of styrofoam packaging. It's a bit odd from an environmental standpoint, considering they were giving out free re-usable bags instead of using plastic. I picked up some chicken wings and ribs - they were nothing special and I doubt I will be shopping there very often.

                                2. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/f...

                                  something to think about

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: blogs

                                    Thank you for that link. I've been saying all along that Rowe is mainly about marketing, but I was still surprised at this. Oops...

                                    1. re: embee

                                      Check out this article in the Star.

                                      http://www.thestar.com/article/404619

                                  2. embee wrote:
                                    "Side note: the large organics store on the south side of Queen is gone, locked out by the landlord. Not surprising and, in my opinion, no loss."

                                    embee, I heard via the Leslieville grapevine that the large, now vacated, organics store on the south side of Queen is one of two locations being considered by a woman whose last name is Regan. She plans to open a gourmet kitchen dept. store and moved to Leslieville last summer and has been scouting the 'hood ever since. I have not met her but a couple of my Leslieville friends have and apparently she's a Canadian who spent many years in Manhattan and has now returned to Toronto. I'm told she has some big backers. We'll see what happens. That is a large and promising piece of real estate and I agree - the closing of the organics shop was NO LOSS to the 'hood. It was an awful place, in my honest opinion. Depressing.

                                    One thing is certain - all the new places opening up along Queen between Boston and Logan have to do with food.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: marasam

                                      Ohhh sounds exciting.....please keep us posted marasam.

                                      1. re: marasam

                                        So I'm not the only person who thought that organics shop was depressing! What a wasted opportunity. I WANTED to shop there, but was so disappointed by the service and selection every time I went.

                                        Thanks for the info about Rowe Farms. I was all excited about having a butcher in my backyard, but now less so. Still can wait to buy some tri-tips from Royal beef and start wood grilling. If you smell some magic in the air next weekend, it's probably me - teehee.

                                        Anyone going to the anti-BigBox rally in Simpson Park Sunday 2pm?

                                        1. re: piggywiggy

                                          Welcome Leslieville's first big box....Rowe farms.
                                          terrible service.
                                          little selection.
                                          everything pre-packaged.
                                          not organic.
                                          Corporately owned.
                                          We had such a lovely corner happening....cheese shop, brick street, cajun corner, coffee.....ahhh well ..........the dollar rules I heard from the bread store there were 100's of people trying to get the space.....I guess the Rowe farms corporation had the most of it......Walmarts next folks

                                          1. re: marktheshark

                                            Well, Rowe is really a very tiny box, but your point is taken. Come to the rally, Jimmy Simpson Park, 2:00 this afternoon.