Ray Falle couldn’t kill Sugar.
The brown heifer was his favourite and he couldn’t pull the trigger.
So Tom McCaw pulled it for him.
Now, Sugar’s lean ground beef is packed in Falle’s freezer.
It’s the first year the Yukon sod farmer raised cows, and most of them are still wrapped up in brown paper, waiting to be sold.
To keep the choice cuts frozen, Falle and his partners, Tom McCaw, Cate Walton and Bill and Barb Drury, hauled home an Alaska Marine Lines shipping container.
To run, the freezer unit needs three-phase power.
But Yukon Electric Company Ltd.‘s cost to supply it was prohibitive.
“They wanted big money to get the facilities in place,” said McCaw.
Instead, the farmers opted for a noisy yellow generator that they jury-rigged out back.
It guzzles more than $100 of gas a day.
“But that’s still cheaper,” said McCaw, complaining about the warm weather.
It was minus16 Celsius.
But inside the shipping container the temperature hovered around minus 20.
“I don’t like the warm weather as much as I used to,” he said.
It means burning more gas.
Rows of plastic boxes line the sides of the frozen container holding sirloin tip steak, ribeye roasts, T-bone steaks, ribs and ground beef.
They’ve already sold about 12 to 15 animals.
But there’s still more than 16,000 pounds of meat waiting for local buyers.
“We thought it might go steadier than it has been,” said McCaw, who’s been putting up flyers around Whitehorse.
Calling themselves Farmers 3, the group approached local supermarkets like Extra Foods and the Superstore.
The cattle had been slaughtered in the government’s mobile abattoir and some of the beef was cut by federally inspected butchers, making it legal for commercial resale.
But the big box stores didn’t bite.
Now, they’re looking for other markets.
“We just dropped off a sample with the woman who owns Riverside Grocery,” added Walton.
“They sell a lot of interesting things there.”
“People are slowly becoming more conscious of where their food comes from and how the animals are treated,” added Falle.
Grazing in Haines Junction, McCaw’s cattle gazed at the St. Elias Range, while Falle’s cattle had a great view of Flat Mountain and the Miner Range, as they munched grass clippings from his sod production.
For years, the grass clippings from the sod farm went to waste.
“Now, we’re taking a waste byproduct and turning it into feed,” said Falle.
Grass-fed beef tastes different, added Walton.
One customer, who bought a variety pack, tried the liver, even though he hates the stuff.
“And now he’s a convert,” she said.
The grass-fed liver is much milder than the grain fed, said McCaw.
And grass-fed hamburgers don’t shrink as they cook, added Falle.
Pumped full of grain in feed lots, cows’ metabolism changes.
But under the midnight sun, eating brome, grass clippings and potatoes, Farmers 3 raised healthy meat.
Grass-feed beef has fewer calories, more folic acid and more Omega 3 fatty acids, said Falle.
On the sod farm, Falle grew up with chickens, goats and pigs.
But it wasn’t until his dad retired and handed his son the business that cows entered the picture.
“He retired, got bored and got into cattle,” said Falle, blaming his dad for the beef.
McCaw, who grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan has raised cattle before.
“When you see him working with the cattle, it’s like he speaks cow,” said Walton.
Farmers 3 isn’t sure how many cattle they’ll bring up the highway next spring.
“It depends how much we sell,” said McCaw.
And keeping some animals over the winter, to breed their own stock, isn’t viable.
It would cost more to feed them over the winter than it does to buy the cows and ship them up from Alberta, he said.
If the farmers still have meat left over come spring, they plan to sell it at the farmer’s market in Shipyards Park.
“There’s a good demand in the summer, but nobody’s butchering then,” said McCaw.
But Farmers 3 hopes to have sold all its product by then, so its gas-guzzling generator can be shut down.
“It’s cutting into our profit margin,” said McCaw.
“And the faster we can sell it, the better.”
The beef is being sold in 25- and 50-pound sample packs, and the farmers deliver.
To contact Farmers 3 call McCaw at 393-4947, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or head to Farmers 3’s Facebook page.
Contact Genesee Keevil at