By: Graham Duncan
Not long ago my wife and I shared a Sanagan’s cote de boeuf. We were on our own at an 100-year-old cottage in Muskoka. There was red wine, there was salad and there was that majestic slab of 50-day dry aged rib steak. It was an absolutely simple and memorable dinner, as a meal can be when it features ingredients of the highest standard.
So the question is, what makes dry aged beef such a significant culinary experience?
Dry aging has been part of carnivorism for as long as humans have understood that changes occur to an animal’s flesh after it dies, the most obvious example being rigor mortis. For centuries beef and game have benefitted from various forms of controlled aging. While modern processing techniques sidestepped the procedure, nothing can replicate the flavours and textures resulting from the painstaking tradition of professionally dry aged beef.
Sanagan’s dry aging fridge is a funky place indeed. In this low temperature, moderate humidity environment sub primals (bulk cuts) of bone-in rib and strip loin sections bide their time, slowly growing crusty exteriors that will later be trimmed away. During this period our friends, the enzymes go to work .
Enzymes are molecules that accelerate chemical reactions in cells. With beef, enzyme actions enhance flavour by converting: proteins into savoury amino acids; glycogen into sweet glucose; and fat and fat-like membranes into aromatic fatty acids. At the same time, they’re working their magic on tenderness too, breaking down collagen fibres.
But what age is the perfect age? 28-days is the steakhouse standard (or that’s when your steak turns into a zombie). Some establishments probe the outer reaches of aging with 120-day-old rib steaks, all gnarled up like Yoda. Assistant head butcher Christopher Spencer, who’s been overseeing the Sanagan’s dry aging program since 2018 explains our process: “We experimented; just a lot of testing. Anything more than 60 to 70 days gets very cheesy. We found that 40 to 50 days achieves a good balance of accessible aged flavour”.
And just what is that aged flavour? I think the only way to describe it is steak-ier. Those elements of savoury juicy succulence that makes your mouth water when you think of a steak are all refined in a dry age steak. There’s oxidized fat lending aromatic depth, all the gelatinized protein (enzymes!) creating that melt-in-your-mouth thing, the absolutely indescribable flavours of age; you know like wine, like cheese. If you’re familiar with the concept of umami, that gives you an idea. But really, words don’t do the trick. You’ve got to try it for yourself. But you’ll have to find your own cottage.
Before Drake proclaimed that we all live in The Six, Toronto’s original alias was Hogtown. A number versus a pig; The Big Apple we ain’t. But we sure used to slaughter a lot of pigs.
Sanagan’s currently carries pork from three Southern Ontario family farms. Like all Sanagan’s suppliers, our pork farmers value small scale, humane animal husbandry. The pigs are processed at low volume facilities located near the farms. By contrast the abattoirs that inspired the name Hogtown were anything but small scale. So, while Sanagan’s embraces a different approach to the life and death of the pig, we’re proud to be selling great pork in Hogtown and thought you might be interested to know how the name came to be.
Sanagan’s heritage pork raised on Murray’s Farm
If the name Hogtown can be attributed to one person, it would be William Davies whose ascent from a single St. Lawrence Market stall in the 1850’s to the establishment of Canada Packers (now Maple Leaf Foods) firmly implanted the pig’s footprint on Toronto’s identity. Along the way the William Davies Corporation became the largest supplier of bacon to England, shipping out of North America’s second largest pork processing plant, located in the Don Valley at Front Street. Davies is credited with popularizing peameal bacon, making him the Godfather of Toronto’s signature sandwich. Eventually the animal world tired of Mr. Davies attentions. He died as a result of injuries suffered after being butted by a goat.
It’s not difficult to witness a herd mentality at Keele and St. Clair as shoppers descend upon Home Depot and Canadian Tire, but this area used to support actual herds of cattle, pork, and horses. The Stockyards, a 300-acre network of rail sidings, loading platforms, stock pens, and processors, including Maple Leaf and Swifts, was once North America’s largest livestock facility. The fortunes of the Stockyards rose and fell with the railroad. By the time trucking eclipsed rail as the most efficient form of livestock transport, and combined with the pressures of Toronto’s ravenous real estate market, the demise of the Stockyards was inevitable. The majority of processors moved from Toronto to Cookstown in 1994 but not after doing its share to consolidate our nickname as Hogtown.
Up until its closure in 2014, for many Torontonians the name Hogtown was embodied by Quality Meat Packers on Tecumseth Street near Fort York. Even if you never saw the abattoir there’s a good chance you saw the trucks, loaded with pigs, driving towards it. I remember working at Fort York in my early 20’s. You either got the industrial beer smell of the Molson’s brewery or the raunchy not quite bacon smell of Quality Meats. Grimly, it felt historically accurate. There had been a packing plant on the site since 1914 in the form of the Toronto Municipal Slaughterhouse. This facility was bought in 1960 by Quality Meats. At its height, Quality processed one third of Ontario’s pork. While it defied animal rights protests and condo-mania it was eventually brought down by the cruel variables of the free market. The last straw was the piglet-killing virus of 2014. Thankfully for Sanagan’s, and the pigs, our small-scale pork farmers were unaffected by the outbreak.
The original site of Quality Meat Packers
Things change. The hogs have left Hogtown. Toronto’s de-industrialization has been rapid. But high quality, locally raised, family-farmed pork will never leave Sanagan’s and Sanagan’s, finger’s crossed, will never leave The Six.
Photos: Graham Duncan and Toronto Archives
Sanagan’s Meat Locker’s “Newsletter Subscriber’s Appreciation” contest (the “Contest”)
RULES & REGULATIONS (the “Contest Rules”)
The Contest runs from 10 a.m. Eastern Time (“ET”) December 2, 2019 to 7 p.m. ET December 15, 2019 (the “Contest Period’”).
The Contest is sponsored by Sanagan’s Meat Locker Ltd. (“Sanagan’s Meat Locker” or the “Contest Sponsor”)
HOW TO ENTER
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.
To enter the Contest, give your name, email address, as well as your consent to receive newsletter and additional promotional material to a cashier or counter service employee at a Sanagan’s Meat Locker location (176 Baldwin St, Toronto, ON or 1513 Gerrard St East, Toronto, ON). Enter by filling out the ballot with your full name, signature, e-mail address, and check box. A completed entry form will constitute 1 entry into the Contest.
Although an email account is required in order to participate, no purchase is required in order to enter the Contest. Many public libraries, retail businesses and others offer free access to computers and a number of internet service providers and other companies offer free email accounts.
All eligible Contest entries will be entered for a chance to win the Grand Prize of a $500.00 gift card to Sanagan’s Meat Locker.
The Contest is open to permanent lawful residents of Canada who are subscribers to the Sanagan’s Meat Locker e-mail newsletter, excluding: i) residents of Quebec, and ii) employees, officers, directors, representatives, and agents (and their immediate family members or persons with whom they are domiciled, whether related or not) of Sanagan’s Meat Locker.
This Contest is subject to all federal, provincial, and municipal laws and regulations. Void where prohibited by law. Contest Sponsor reserves the right to cancel or suspend this Contest in the event of any accident, or administrative or other error of any kind. Contest Sponsor reserves the right to cancel or suspend this Contest in the event of any accident, or administrative or other error of any kind.
An entrant under the age of majority in his/her province of residence (a “Minor”) must have a parent or legal guardian consent to his/her participation. The parent/legal guardian must provide his/her consent and his/her email address on the entry form, or the entry form will be disqualified. Contest Sponsor may contact the parent/legal guardian to confirm proof of identification and parental consent. If a parent or legal guardian does not provide consent, or if satisfactory proof of identification to confirm the winner’s (or the Minor winner’s parent, or legal guardian’s) identity and personal information provided in connection with the Contest, including but not limited to, the winner’s (or the Minor winner’s parent, or legal guardian’s) name and email address, cannot be obtained, the entry will be disqualified.
All entries must be received no later than 7 p.m. ET on December 15, 2019. Contest Sponsor takes no responsibility for entries that are lost, misdirected, delayed, garbled, incorrect, illegible or received after the Contest deadline. Limit 1 entry per person. Only one e-mail address and account may be used by any person to enter the Contest. In the event that Contest Sponsor receives more than the permitted number of entries, Contest Sponsor reserves the right to void and destroy any entries from that entrant and/or household, and that entrant/household may, at the discretion of the Contest Sponsor, be disqualified from the Contest. Should it be discovered that an entrant is using the aid of computer programs to auto-fill entries, that entrant will be immediately disqualified from the Contest. Contest Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify all such contestant from future contests conducted by the Contest Sponsor without further notice.
Contest Sponsor reserves the right to ask for proof of identification, which must be provided upon request. If proof of age and identification cannot be obtained then the entry will be disqualified. In the event of a dispute as to the identity of a winner based on an e-mail address, the winning entry will be deemed to be made by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address at the time of entry. The authorized account holder is the natural person who is assigned an e-mail address by an Internet service provider or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the e-mail address in question.
There is 1 prize available to be won (the “Prize”). The Prize consists of:
$500.00 Gift Card to Sanagan’s Meat Locker
The approximate retail value of the Prize is $500.00 CDN.
A random draw will be held at or around 11 a.m on December 16, 2019 at Sanagan’s Meat Locker’s office located at 176 Baldwin St. in Toronto. There will be 1 Grand Prize draw to fulfill this Contest. The chances of being selected to win a Prize in this Contest depend on the total number of eligible entries received.
ACCEPTANCE OF PRIZE
A representative of Sanagan’s Meat Locker will notify each selected entrant by e-mail within 2 days of the draw. Each selected entrant will then have 7 days following receipt thereof to contact Sanagan’s Meat Locker and provide requested documentation to claim his/her Prize. Notification shall be deemed to have occurred on the date the email is sent to the selected entrant’s email address by Sanagan’s Meat Locker. It is the responsibility of the selected entrant to check his or her email account in a timely manner.
Prior to being awarded a Prize, each entrant selected as a winner must correctly complete a mathematical skill testing question and must sign a declaration and release form (“Declaration and Release”) confirming compliance with these Contest Rules, his/her acceptance of the Prize as awarded; and acknowledging the non-responsibility of the Contest Sponsor,, its affiliates, associates, their respective promotional and advertising agencies, and each of their respective employees, officers, directors, agents, successors and assigns (the “Releasees”), with regard to any injury, accident, damage, claim, liability, loss or misfortune related to any aspects of the Contest, any Prize awarded, the acceptance, use, misuse, possession and delivery of a Prize, printing errors or claims based upon publicity rights, defamation or invasion of privacy, by December 24, 2019 at 4 p.m. ET. If a winner is a Minor, his/her parent or legal guardian must sign the Declaration and Release on winner’s behalf in order for the winner to claim his/her Prize.
In the event the selected entrant does not correctly answer the mathematical skill testing question, or sign and return the Declaration and Release, by December 24, 2019 at 4 p.m. ET, he/she will be deemed to have forfeited any rights to the prize and the Contest Sponsor will randomly draw an alternate eligible entry in the same manner from the eligible entries received, and that selected entrant must follow the same process outlined above. This process, as described herein, may be repeated until the Prize has been awarded to an eligible entrant. All decisions of the Contest Sponsor are final and binding.
The Contest Sponsor will not be held responsible for the loss of prizes due to changes in email addresses, mailing addresses or personal information provided by an entrant in connection with this Contest, errors in completed entry forms, or any other circumstances leading to an invalid, erroneous or incomplete mailing address or e-mail address.
Sanagan’s Meat Locker or its appointed designee shall deliver Prizes to winners.
By submitting an Entry, each entrant (or Minor Entrant’s parent or legal guardian on his/her behalf) agrees to be bound by these Contest Rules. All entries become the property of Sanagan’s Meat Locker and will not be returned.
Prizes must be accepted “as is” and may not be exactly as shown. All Prizes are subject to availability. The Contest Sponsor, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to substitute the Prize or any portion thereof with a prize of equivalent or greater retail value. Some restrictions may apply. Prizes are non-transferable, non-refundable and have no cash value, that is, there is no cash alternative available. All Prize taxes, if any, are the responsibility of the winner.
Except where prohibited by law, the Contest Sponsor does not make any representation or offer any warranty, express or implied, as to the quality or fitness of any Prize awarded in connection with this Contest. The Prize winner understands and acknowledges that he/she may not seek reimbursement or pursue any legal or equitable remedy from the Contest Sponsor should the Prize fail to be fit for its purpose or is in any way unsatisfactory to the Prize winner. The Releasees shall not be responsible in any way for the use of, or bear any liability whatsoever attributable to the Prize awarded in this Contest.
Each entrant agrees to waive all rights with respect to print and broadcast publicity. By entering the Contest and accepting the Prize, winner hereby consents to the reasonable use by the Contest Sponsor of the winner's photograph, voice, likeness and/or image, contents of the entry form, and the name and age of the winner without any further compensation, in all media nor known or hereafter devised, worldwide in perpetuity, in connection with this Contest and for any future promotional activity.
By entering the Contest, entrants agree that the Releasees shall bear no responsibility whatsoever with regard to any claims, liability, damage, injury, accident, loss and/or misfortune related to any aspects of the Contest, the Prize, the acceptance, use, misuse, possession and delivery of the Prize, participation in any Prize related activities, printing errors, claims based upon publicity rights, defamation or invasion of privacy. By consenting to a Minor entrant’s entry into the Contest, the parent/legal guardian of the Minor entrant agrees to the foregoing on the entrant’s behalf.
By entering the Contest and voluntarily providing personal information, each entrant (or the parent or legal guardian of a Minor entrant) consents and agrees to Contest Sponsor’s collection and use of the information provided by the entrant for the purpose of administering this Contest, and, if consent is given at the time of entry, to provide the entrant with marketing information relating to new and existing products and upcoming promotions of Sanagan’s Meat Locker by e-mail.
Your personal information will not be disclosed to any third party nor will you receive communications from the Contest Sponsor unless your explicit opt-in consent is received, in compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Actand its associated regulations, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law and its associated regulations, and other applicable data protection and personal information protection laws. Each entrant (or the parent or legal guardian of a Minor entrant) agrees to be bound by these Contest Rules. No purchase, payment or financial information of any kind is needed to enter or win the Contest.
Entrants agree that the Releasees shall not be liable or responsible for incorrect or inaccurate entry of registration or entry information which may affect an entrants’ ability to participate in the Contest, including but not limited due to any failure of Twitter or Facebook services, the Contest Sponsor’s websites or any failure of the entrant’s email account, or the entrant's cell-phone carrier during the Contest or any human error, technical malfunctions, lost/delayed/corrupted data transmission, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, line failures of any network or telephone line, computer on-line systems, servers, access providers, computer equipment, software, cell-phone networks or any failure thereof or Internet traffic congestion or virus or any combination thereof, or any injury or damage to an entrant's or third party's computer or cell phone occasioned by participating in the Contest.
Sanagan’s Meat Locker reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, modify or suspend a contest for any reason, including without limitation in the event of any printing, administrative error, virus, bug, unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond its control which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the contest. Any attempt to deliberately damage any website or to undermine the legitimate operation of this Contest is a violation of criminal and civil laws, and should such an attempt be made, Contest Sponsor reserves the right to seek remedies and damages to the fullest extent permitted by law, including criminal prosecution. Entries are subject to verification and will be declared invalid if they are forged, falsified, altered or tampered with in any way.
October is both the month of Thanksgiving but it’s also the anniversary of my start at Sanagan’s. And for that I’m thankful.
When I started at Sanagan’s seven years ago, I was looking for predictable, painless work that would allow me to write a book. After years of gratifying yet financially precarious freelance writing I wanted to write a novel. And I did, writing early in the mornings before heading out to sell meat. In that seven years, some other things happened: my brother had a massive stroke; my dad went into rapid old-age decline, requiring ongoing, sometimes emergency care from me; I had a hip replacement; and I’ve had cancer twice, both times involving major surgery.
So, yeah, an eventful seven years. And throughout it all, Peter, Brian, store manager Claire and all my co-workers have been unfailingly accommodating and supportive in helping me deal with these various crapwiches. To know my employer had my back throughout it all has made some difficult situations so much easier to deal with.
And over the seven years, it’s been an immense pleasure to get to know so many of our customers, many of whom note my absences and welcome my return. You can’t have too many friends.
At Sanagan’s I’m able to sell products of quality in good conscience, knowing that my efforts will contribute to the family farms of Ontario and sustainable agricultural practices. I’m treated with respect and Peter’s a genuinely good guy who cares about his business and the people who work for him.
And I get an employee discount on all that excellent meat.
So, again, thanks.