If your plans for summer include barbecuing turkey burgers, there’s a good chance students from Red River College’s Culinary Arts program had a hand in getting those patties on the grill.
That’s because the students played a role in helping Granny’s Poultry Farmers Cooperative develop the burgers as part of an ongoing partnership with RRC’s Paterson GlobalFood Institute to find new meal options for chicken and turkey.
Chef Jason Wortzman, Director of Marketing and Product Development for Granny’s, says the partnership played a key role in developing the burgers and several other new products, noting PGI is an ideal facility in which to produce small samples for larger product development projects.
“Granny’s is always looking to add value to its products – to make convenient options that are unique but also resonate with our consumers. I started working on turkey burgers because we had been discussing it for a long time. We believed it would be a great next step for us,” said Wortzman. “I had students help me produce samples and I received valuable feedback from instructors after doing some taste testing.”
A team from Granny’s scheduled a taste test at a grocery chain in Toronto in February 2015. In less than two months, a prototype was approved, the recipe was refined to extend shelf life, and production started shipping the burgers to stores across the country. Wortzman says executives with the grocery chain were very impressed with the taste and texture of the new Granny’s burgers.
“They loved the product,” he says. “It was really juicy and full of flavour, containing only natural ingredients such as turkey broth and cornmeal – making it naturally gluten-free.”
RRC students and grads also played a part in getting Granny’s turkey roast and turkey meatloaf to store shelves. Similar to the burgers, these products are now sold in grocery stores across Canada.
Granny’s is also developing three different flavours of turkey sausage: cranberry chipotle, apple and honey, and lemon sweet pepper. The cranberry chipotle turkey sausage – described by Wortzman as a combination of spicy and sweet – is already being sold to restaurants. They have plans to roll out all three sausages to stores under the cooperative’s own label soon.
The gourmet-inspired sausages will also be offered on a bun – alongside other Granny’s products – out in the community again this summer. Granny’s mobile barbecue cart will be a presence at charitable events, including CancerCare Manitoba’s Challenge for Life at Assiniboine Park on June 10, when volunteers will feed close to 1,000 participants.
Culinary Arts students are hired to staff the barbecue cart for the summer. One student, Tynisha Braun (shown above and left, with Wortzman), was recently hired by Granny’s to manage the cart and help Wortzman work on other new products in development.
Braun’s family are members or the Cooperative, and have been raising chickens for Granny’s for many years. Having completed RRC’s two-year Culinary Arts program, Braun’s new skills as a chef – along with her farming history with Granny’s – give her a true farm-to-plate experience.
“She’ll be joining me at our processing plant in Blumenort,” says Wortzman. “We start in small-scale labs at RRC and then the product is scaled up at the plant with larger equipment.”
In operation for more than five decades, Granny’s is the largest poultry producer in the province. The Manitoba-based cooperative, which employs 490 people, sells 48 million kilograms of chicken and turkey annually.
— Profile by Kevin Engstrom (Creative Communications, 2001)