Beef is in their blood
Wilhauks in the meat business since 1965
In May of 1965, brothers Ben & Tony Wilhauk purchased Quality Meat Market in downtown Leduc. The town boasted a population of 2,000 at the time. Ben had learned custom killing, cutting, wrapping and sausage making while working at a plant in Barrhead. He taught Tony the trade while the two worked at the Market, making homemade sausage and cutting, wrapping and selling sides of beef and pork they purchased from federal plants in Edmonton.
In August it was decided that a full custom killing plant was needed in the Leduc area. Ben and Tony’s dad, Pius Wilhauk Sr., moved the rest of the family from Camrose and purchased an acre of land north of Leduc near the auction mart, which was owned by the Sept family. On that acre they built their plant and called the business P.J. Wilhauk & Sons Custom Killing. In 1969, Pius Jr. left his job in Fort MacMurray to come help at the new plant.
That acre of land is now 6053 - 47 St. in Leduc and is still the home of Wilhauk Beef Jerky today.
Alex Wilhauk soon joined his father and brothers in the family business. They would custom kill beef and pork at the plant and then transport the meat to the Quality Meat Market, where the product would be cut and wrapped for sale to their customers.
In 1970, Tony left to become a meat cutter at Woodwards in Edmonton.
In 1971, after Pius Sr. retired & Pius Jr. left to become a Physic Nurse in Claresholm, AB, the Quality Meat Market was sold and the killing plant was expanded to include cut & wrap facilities, a sausage kitchen, a meat curing room, a custom smokehouse and, of course, enough coolers and freezers to keep their product fresh.
In 1972, Alex & Ben became partners and Leduc Meat Packers Ltd., was formed.
In 1974, the business was growing fast so Norm Wilhauk joined the family business, leaving a rig job to help his brothers.
In 1982, after years of suffering with back injuries while performing this gruelling work, Ben was forced to leave the company. He sold his 50% of the business to Norm. Now Norm and Alex were partners in the business.
Big things on the horizon
In 1984, Leduc Meat Packers Ltd., started making Beef Jerky. As word spread and more people began asking for this new product, the Wilhauks realized something special was beginning to grow.
The plant continued to fill custom killing and cut and wrap orders, even as the jerky end of the business was gaining ground.
In 2004, as Alex was beginning to consider retirement, his youngest son Dean was preparing to take over Alex’s half of the business.
Dean would have been the first Wilhauk in the third generation to take ownership in the family business, but his sudden passing in 2005 changed that. Many of his generation worked at the plant, but Dean would have been the first owner. After Dean’s passing, his brother Trent left an executive chef position and joined the family business alongside his father and Uncle Norm.
A new direction
In 2006, after many sleepless nights, Alex & Norm made the difficult decision to close the custom killing, cut & wrap portions of the business to focus on beef jerky and sausage.
That decision proved to be a sound one as beef jerky sales took off. The product soon became known as Alberta’s Best Beef Jerky.
Wilhauk Beef Jerky is now famous in Alberta and orders come in from all over Canada and the United States. Customers have even sent packages of Wilhauk Beef Jerky all over the world, often to Canadian troops serving their country in Afghanistan or other war-torn countries.
In January 2012, Norm officially retired and Trent purchased his 50% of the company, making him partners with his dad, Alex. Together they have begun the process of rebranding the company as Wilhauk Beef Jerky. Meanwhile, sales and demand for the product continue to grow.
The future looks bright and we plan to be around for a long time, continuing to sell our famous Wilhauk Beef Jerky. We are already working on bringing the fourth generation into the family business, as Trent’s sons Alex Jr. and Adam helped out during the 2011 Christmas rush.
On January 16, 2013, Alex Wilhauk lost his battle with Small Cell Lung Cancer at the age of 68 years old. Trent now owns 100% of Wilhauk Beef Jerky (Leduc Meat Packers LTD) and will continue to honor his father by continuing to offer excellent products and customer service that was the calling card of the Wilhauk name since 1965.
Alex is survived by is loving wife of 43 years Joan, Son Trent (Nicolle), Grandchildren Alex, Adam, Jenna, Jared, Mother – In – Law Irene Sjolie of Camrose AB, Brothers Ben (Fay) of Calmar AB, Pius jr (Mel) of Claresholm, AB, Norman (Rita) Of Leduc, AB, Sisters Martha Swerda (Ted) of Camrose AB, Gloria Laroque (Gordon) of Millet AB, Brother in Law Alfred Sande of Ponoka AB, Sisters in Law Anne Wilhauk of Leduc AB , Lorraine Willhauk of St Albert AB, Georgia Sjolie of Daysland AB and many Nieces & Nephews. Parents Pius Sr & Katherina Wilhauk, Father in Law Lawrence Sjolie, Son Dean, Brothers Tony & Rudy, Sisters Betty Sande & Lil Christensen, Brothers in Law Larry Sjolie & John Christensen, predeceased Alex.