Since 1963 Hertel Meats (Hertels) has been a mainstay amongst grocery retailers and food service providers in British Columbia, mainly on Vancouver Island. Family-owned and -operated, Hertels is renowned for the fresh, homemade quality of pork products meticulously processed with time and care the old-fashioned way.
While Hertels focuses on the quality of the ingredients going into the end products, such as premium pork, fresh spices, pure spring water and natural wood smoke, the company also puts an emphasis on what it does not use - specifically no wheat based fillers or any ingredients containing gluten, no lactose or milk products, and no monosodium glutamate (MSG). Customers can count on the fact that none of these unnecessary, often highly allergenic, additives or preservatives can be found in their recipes. Hertels also produces a line of specialty bacons processed without the addition of potentially carcinogenic nitrates or nitrites.
“We're most well-known for our fresh sausages and doubled smoked bacons and hams,” shares Ron Caldwell, general manager of Hertels for over 20 years. “We continue to do things the way they used to be done. We don’t try to sell our consumers a watered down or preservative-laden product.”
From generation to generation
The Hertel family business traces back to a small abattoir that Tom Hertel built on his farm homestead, nestled at the base of the Beaufort mountain range in the Alberni Valley, heart of Vancouver Island.
“My father-in-law, Tom, and his father, Paul Hertel, were traveling to farms throughout the Alberni Valley, slaughtering for local farmers and Tom decided to start a plant here so they didn't have to constantly travel so far,” recounts Caldwell, “thus eventually establishing Hertels as a family-owned enterprise providing slaughter and cutting, wrapping, freezing and processing services of pork, beef and game to local farmers and hunters.”
It was Tom’s father, Paul, who used the old country recipes created by the family's ancestors in 18th-century Europe that he had brought with him when he immigrated to Canada in the early ‘30s, to process pork sausages, bratwurst, bacon and hams for his grateful customers who returned year after year for his delicious, one-of-a-kind product. Today, four generations later, Hertels resides as a modern meat processing, family-owned and -operated facility based on those same original old country recipes and old-fashioned, slow-smoked processing methods.
It was in the mid-80s when Tom recognized and responded to a need he saw in customers suffering from allergies and food intolerances and began developing a line of fresh sausages processed without gluten, lactose, MSG or any artificial preservatives. Tom also pioneered the processing of meats without the common seasoning/preservative MSG, as well as creating a smoked bacon cure without using sodium nitrite, nitrate, phosphates, MSG or other chemical preservatives. His efforts to make a more natural, wholesome product were quickly appreciated and soon Hertels was in high demand. Other processing companies gradually followed suit, but Hertels take pride in being the original.
Hertels offers a complete range of premium pork products that can be found on the shelves of all major grocery chains and retailers on Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s lower mainland, including a few extending into the interior of British Columbia.
“We have many loyal repeat customers, as well as longstanding employees, who are just as much a part of the family here,” shares Caldwell. “We run our own trucks and do direct delivery to retailers and food service clients across the region. We are well-known in the stores we sell to on the island, the mainland and beyond.”
The Hertels brand has also found its way onto the menus of more than a few Island eateries, even a restaurant chain or two, proud to offer local, home-grown selections.
Caldwell has expanded Hertels fresh sausage line to include to-date more than a dozen varieties, from the original pork and bratwurst to the more exotic Chorizo, Hot Italian and British Bangers. Care is always taken to inform customers that the British Bangers, one of the most popular varieties, is the only one that cannot boast gluten-free status, as the original British recipe requires the addition of wheat crumbs.
The selection of naturally double-smoked items include many varieties of hams and bacons, as well as mouth-watering chops and loins (kasslers), ribs, jowls, picnics, cottage rolls and hocks for savory pea soups. The hams come whole, halved, sliced or quartered, with bone-in, bone -out, or partially removed for EZ carve; it is said that once you serve a Hertels ham for your holiday dinner, your family will accept nothing less.
Hertels provides today's bacon-crazed consumer with every version of smoked pork belly imaginable, from double-smoked extra-thick sliced bacon, piece or slab bacon, whole or sliced back bacon (Canadian bacon) and Ayreshire bacon with the boneless loin attached, not to mention our original, more popular than ever no nitrate added bacon because, as Caldwell says, at the end of the day it’s about feeling good about what you eat.
Since the ‘80s when Tom was one of the first to swap out MSG, nitrates and other harmful additives for fresh, wholesome ingredients, Hertel has been raising the bar. It’s the taking care of the consumer and remaining true to the old country family recipes, along with the strong work ethic family heritage and equally hardworking employees that has made Hertel Meats what it is today.