Food In Canada

Who’s Who 2024: Brent Cator, CEO, Cardinal Meats

By Treena Hein   

Business Operations Food In Canada Food Trends Meat &Poultry Cardinal Meats Editor pick Ontario

Brent Cator never stops experimenting and launching new meat processing techniques

Innovation, respect, determination. These are some of the words that sum up the phenomenal success of Cardinal Meats under the leadership of president and CEO Brent Cator, following in the footsteps of his father Ralph and grandfather Jack. Cardinal Meats currently makes over 250 products for its own brand and private labels, equally serving the restaurant and retail markets.

Like many of his peers, Cator started working at the family business as a young teen and then studied business.

“All I knew is that I didn’t want to be bored,” he says, “and I never have been. There are so many intricacies involved in producing meat products, and I love the close relationships with our customers, as well as leading our outstanding team.”

Cator learned how to innovate from Ralph (who almost single-handedly made the concept of the burger mainstream in Canada decades ago, and for that and more, was inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame). About 30 years ago, Ralph was supposed to retire, but “he was determined to develop a cooked rib product in my mother’s sauce,” says Cator, “and if we didn’t do it, he was going to do it with someone else.”


This push resulted in one of Cardinal’s biggest achievements, where Cator led the creation of their now-famous Safe Sous Vide cooking process by collaborating with scientists from two universities over three years. The team adapted the sous vide cooking method used by chefs into a patented large-scale industrial process that has been a phenomenal success (and also led to changes in regulatory law). The products, which Cator says are cost-effective, consistent, food-safe, and delicious, are from underutilized cuts and have been in hot demand since the start from both home cooks and restaurants.

“We made cooked ribs, of course, but also many other products like shredded pork, chicken breasts in lemon-pepper sauce, bone-in half chicken, and meat loaf,” says Cator.

The art of forming burgers

The success of Safe Sous Vide prompted Cator to further innovate. He brought in biological food safety testing, and with VP of operations John Vatri, discovered a method that meat processing plants could use to make ground meat safer.

“Again, we advanced food safety regulations in Canada and the U.S.,” says Cator.

Further innovation followed. Cardinal was the first to use Tender-Form fill to create burger patties. The company’s philosophy of ‘once innovated, innovate again’ led to also commercializing their burgers made using a unique Natural Texture Formed forming technology. In total, so far, Cardinal Meats holds three patents.

Just in the last year, the Cardinal product line grew by leaps and bounds, and Cator anticipates more expansion, especially in the Safe Sous Vide line.

“It’s as fresh as if a chef just made it,” says Cator. “Its popularity is really growing right now, with restaurants needing to save labour and more people eating at home but wanting a special experience.”

Cator wants to explore using Safe Sous Vide in starchy dishes, but says, “I’d like to spend more time researching technologies from around the world to add to the business. I love the customer intimacy, I love the speed of this industry, [and] I love the challenges. I want to hear what our customers wish they could get, and then find how we can do that. I love my team. I’m very proud of our company culture. Our staff is very engaged and like me, they believe there is always a better way.”

This article was originally published in the April/May 2024 issue of Food in Canada.

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