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Calgary hidden gem offers up costly meat at a bargain price

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Hidden Calgary gem serves up costly meat at bargain price
WATCH: A hidden gem in Calgary is serving up tasty cuts of meat at so-called 'bargain prices.' Tomasia DaSilva explains where it is and how you can get in on the action. – Mar 28, 2023

A longtime hidden gem in Calgary is getting some attention amongst those looking for a reprieve from pricey proteins.

Housed deep in the John Ware building at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), “The Butchery” offers different cuts of meat and fish all at a price cut.

It’s all thanks to the efforts of students and staff with the Butchery and Charcuterie Management program who first prepare the product and then sell it for a discount.

“We provide a very good bargain on meat,” program instructor Ray Bucknell told Global News during a recent tour.

Bucknell wouldn’t say how much of a bargain, pointing out the goal is not to “undercut” butchers or retailers in the city, but rather to provide a break for customers.

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“Our mentality is we can help the community by providing the proteins at a good price,” he added. “The goal is to be competitively priced enough to motivate people to shop at SAIT.”

Student butchers prepare meat at SAIT. Global Calgary

The motivation has worked.

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Global News checked out the long lineup of customers on a recent Thursday morning. They were eager to get in on the cheaper prices. But Bucknell said the draw isn’t only that — it’s also the product and service.

“It’s really good meat,” he said. “Yes, it’s student produced. But these students, they’re all very serious.”

“We’re trying to provide a place where people can go and experience to me what a butchery is with a fresh meat case. Products they can trust.”

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However, for some of those in line, the overall price was the draw.

“I save $50-$70 per time,” student John Malley said.

On his most recent trip he felt like he won the jackpot.

“Three striploins. Three rib eyes. Six bison burgers. All for $65. Can’t be beat.”

“There’s pretty much nothing else you can say when you get $12 T-bones. So yeah, pretty ridiculously good pricing,” fellow student Daylan Duyven said.

The Butchery at SAIT offers competitive meat prices amid soaring prices. Global Calgary

SAIT’s butchery program has been around for more than three decades and the Butchery for several years as well. It’s pretty much an open secret for current and past students as well as staff. Bucknell said the general public are also starting to take notice, likely due to rising meat prices.

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According to Sylvain Charlebois, a Canadian researcher and professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, beef prices have risen 16 per cent since 2021. Chicken has also seen a 21 per cent rise, thanks to Avian flu.

Bucknell told Global News they’re often able to keep prices lower thanks to not having to pay their employees — at least not with money.

“We’re able to give a small discount on the fact we are not giving wages to the students,” he pointed out.

He said the students are getting a great educational, hands-on experience — even if the end product may not be “perfect”.

“You may have a steak that may be a bit of a wedge-shape or mislabeled or small things like that,” he said. “But we’ve honestly never had a complaint.”

Butchery students prepare for the future. Global Calgary

The Butchery is open Thursday mornings from 10a.m. to noon and the retail store is open five days a week. The program itself accepts 30 students a year and has a year-long waiting list. The Northern Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton has a similar program and service.

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