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Winding down of Pine View Farms 'indicative of what's happening': Hospitality Saskatchewan

The Pine View butcher shop is in a building on the Boldt farm. (Pine View Farms/Facebook - image credit)
The Pine View butcher shop is in a building on the Boldt farm. (Pine View Farms/Facebook - image credit)

At some point in the not too distant future, Melanie Boldt will load a freezer in the Pine View Farms butcher shop for the last time.

She's not sure when it's going to happen — that depends on inventory and demand — but it's going to happen. Then, for the first time in 26 years, she and her husband Kevin will be out of the retail food supply business.

She said no one reason triggered the decision to hang up the butcher's apron.

"We had to do some strategic planning. Do we get bigger? Do we get smaller? What's our succession plan? What does our labour situation look like? What's the industry like, the economy and all those things," she said.

"It's not any one thing that came together. But at the end of the day, we looked at our sustainability and what works for us personally as well."

The closure may be slightly ahead of schedule for the Boldts, but Jim Bence with Hospitality Saskatchewan said their decision mirrors larger trends in the industry.

"It's indicative of what's happening, you know, throughout our entire industry, particularly the food and beverage side," Bence said.

"So whether you're a restaurant or a supplier, there is really a compression on the revenues and on the human toll for those that are in this industry today."

Bence said restaurants and suppliers are struggling to stay in the black in the post-pandemic world. Costs are rising, skilled labour is at a premium and competition for consumer dollars is fierce.

"It's just razor thin. And so when anything goes up — it could be the price of a case of lettuce — it has a direct impact on how much money it is that these folks can make," he said.

"Then there are also seven days a week, you know, 15 hour days. So there's long hours when you don't have, you know, the staff hands on deck to be able to give you some relief. A lot of our folks are just, they're just really pooped out."

Long-time buyer

Andy Yuen at Odd Couple in Saskatoon is a long-time Pine View Farms buyer. He's got other suppliers that he can use, but said Pine View satisfied a very specific niche.

"We try to use their products when we can. Not all our meats are from them. We have other suppliers, but we do think that — for me especially — I think their chicken and their beef products are superior than most other beef and chicken we can get in Saskatchewan," he said.

"It's all natural."

Melanie said moving out of the retail side should bring the couple full circle. They began as grain farmers with Kevin's parents in the late 1990s. Looking to expand, they bought the current land, with the small abattoir and chicken barns, and began developing a "branded niche product."

Now, they'll be selling off the existing inventory and settling back on the farm to decide on their future.

"We do intend to stay living here on our farmyard. We love it here, and we're not ready to leave," she said.

"We'll have a few months to figure out who we are, beyond being chicken farmers and butchers."