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Heritage Site Preserves History Of Canadian Beef Rings
Before electricity and refrigeration, resourceful Canadian farmers came up with a practical way to preserve and enjoy beef through hot summer months. Similar to today’s “crowd butchering”, where an animal isn’t butchered until enough people commit to buy shares, Beef Rings were cooperative-like groups that divided a newly-butchered steer each week to shareholders. The community ventures were especially useful in times such as World War II, when beef was rationed.
  Visitors can arrange a tour of what may be the only building left in Manitoba that was once used for a beef ring. The Gilbert Plains Beef Ring was restored and named a designated municipal heritage site in 2006.
  Located on property owned by Lorne and Victoria Smith, the couple restored the building with the help of neighbors and a community development grant in 2007-2008. The building was used when Lorne’s grandfather, Selby Smith owned the property, until the Beef Ring ceased in 1951 after power lines were installed.
  “A lot of it is original,” Victoria Smith says of the 1923 building. “It has a pole in the middle where the wooden winch hangs, a thick rope, the original cutting block, and knives and hooks they used.”
  Though details varied at other Beef Rings, the concept was similar to the Gilbert Plains setup. Each Friday during the summer, one share member brought a steer to the holding stall. After passing inspection to ensure it was healthy and would dress out to 500 to 600 lbs., the steer was slaughtered. The carcass was lifted by the large wooden built-in hoist, and on Saturday a butcher cut it up.
  The number of member families varied over the years from 16 to 24, but the meat was divided equally. Each family received different cuts of meat each week so that by the end of about 20 weeks they had received all the cuts of beef. The meat was placed in cotton sacks (often sugar sacks) and hung on numbered hooks along two walls of the building. Families took their sacks home and kept the meat cool as best they could in a well, ice house or cool basement.
  Because it was important to the Smiths to preserve family and local history, they maintained the building through the years and were pleased to have it restored to its original design.
  Lorne takes visitors to the site for tours, Smith says. Call ahead to set up a time with him or call Gilbert Plains Municipality (ph 204 548-2326).
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lorne and Victoria Smith, Box 201, Gilbert Plains, Man. R0L 0X0 Canada (ph 204 548-2548)

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2019 - Volume #43, Issue #3