Local deli meat: Inside the Schinkel's Legacy plant
Windsor Morning's Jonathan Pinto pays a visit to the Schinkel's Legacy plant in Chatham
The Schinkel's Legacy processing plant in Chatham is where many of the award-winning cooked, cured and smoked meats sold under the Schinkel's label come from. The plant and two Schinkel's retail stores are separate businesses, owned by different members of the extended Schinkel family.
The processing plant is owned by Tim and Marian Schinkel. It was Tim's father and uncle who started the whole family connection to deli meats when they opened the first store in Essex in the 1960s.
Eighteen people work at the processing facility. Every week, they produce 15,000 kilograms of meat products — items such as deli meats, bacon and hot dogs. You can find Schinkel's products in stores as far away as Ottawa.
So what makes Schinkel's products different than meats produced by the major meat processors? Tim Schinkel says that it's a number of little things that add up to a lot.
"It starts with buying local. It's getting quite rare nowadays that people buy an all-Ontario meat product. There's product available to me that come from the US or further afar — Nicaragua, or even Australia, where they have cheaper pastures. We've always stuck with buying local. We source all of our fresh meat from Ontario."
How perfect deli roasts are formed
At Schinkel's, the process is simple.
When the raw meat comes into the plant, it's injected with spices. Then, it's placed in a giant tumbler that helps the meat proteins stick together, as well as evenly distribute the spicing.
The reason the roasts look so perfect is because the tumbled meat is formed and cooked in a netting that creates that perfect shape.
However, using only locally-grown Ontario meats is not the only way Schinkel's is different.
"In the processing industry ... there's always a temptation to make it cheaper; because of [the] perception that people want everything cheaper," Schinkel explains.
"We always believe in delivering value [instead]. So we don't over-pump (add too much water). We try and keep our ingredient list as simple as possible rather than try to make everything as cheap as possible. So it all adds up to a little different texture, different appearance — it affects the end product."
The entire plant is also MSG and gluten-free.
One of the hottest trends among large meat processors right now is the introduction of "natural" lines that claim to be free of artificial preservatives. Schinkel says they don't plan to do the same.
"It should be illegal. There actually [are] nitrates in [the "natural" meat products]. They find it naturally — most of it is celery extracts. Nitrates exist [elsewhere] in higher levels than meat; in products like raspberries, celery is high in nitrates. These 'no nitrates added' [claims] are just smoke and mirrors."
Schinkel adds that the conventional nitrates they use are more controllable — and therefore safer, he claims — than naturally occurring ones. He also notes that some of their products, such as the oven roasted and smoked turkey roasts, don't contain nitrates at all.
Aside from the retail stores in Essex and Chatham, Schinkel's Legacy products are sold at independent grocers and meat shops throughout southwestern Ontario. In Windsor, those stores include Fred's Farm Fresh on Huron Church Road, Remark Farms on Howard Avenue or Schwab's Meats on Tecumseh Road.
Hear Jonathan's latest food adventure every Thursday at 8:10 a.m. on CBC Radio One - 97.5FM in Windsor, 91.9FM in Leamington, 88.1FM in Chatham & 90.3FM in Sarnia. Do you have a food, restaurant or dish that you think Jonathan should explore? Call (519) 255-3400, email email@example.com or tweet him directly @jonathan_pinto.