GRASSFED beef is on the menu more than ever, and one Central Queensland producer has been given half a million dollars to become the first in the state to produce it specifically for Coles.
Bill and Anne Crowther, alongside their sons Matthew, John, and Harry, own and operate three cattle properties in Central Queensland.
Clematis (Arcadia Valley), Wyoming (east of Emerald), and Sweetwater (west of Emerald) make up a combined area of 11,000 hectares.
They run a Santa Gertrudis Angus cross herd with 2000 breeders, and own a 1000-head feedlot on Clematis, which has been a large part of their operation since 1995.
But after recently being awarded a $500,000 grant from the Coles Nurture Fund, Bill Crowther is busy planning a major change in direction.
The money will help fund the establishment of 2500ha of leucaena over the next five years. 600ha will be planted this year.
The Crowthers began to supply grainfed beef to Coles seven years ago, and have been specifically buying early-maturing bulls to build a strong herd for the domestic market. Previously, they were supplying EU cattle.
Mr Crowther said without the grant to plant the leucaena, going 100 per cent grassfed for the domestic market would have taken at least ten years to achieve.
“The difficulty with the grazed beef is they want continuity of supply,” he said.
“In Queensland with our seasonal conditions you can’t supply that product for ten months or 12 months of the year.”
The leucaena is expected to increase the land’s productivity by 20 per cent, and will give the family the ability to supply for ten months of the year.
Mr Crowther said the grant was a significant boost for the family-run operation.
“It will turbocharge our business and we’ll be able to reach that goal in five years instead of ten,” he said. “We are really excited about receiving the Nurture Fund and appreciate the show of support from Coles.”
The Crowthers will be the first producers in Queensland to be supplying grassfed beef for the GRAZE program, and Mr Crowther said it was something he was proud of.
The family planted their first leucaena in August last year, in the anticipation of having some experience if they were successful in their bid for the grant.
Now, they have two areas planted, with last year’s thriving and a paddock planted after March rain now sitting out of the ground.
Mr Crowther said he hoped to see other Queensland producers explore their options with regards to supplying supermarket-quality grassfed beef.
“It will be something that now that we’ve started this, other people will be able to follow,” he said.
Being able to supply quality grassfed beef for ten months of the year has previously ruled Queenslanders out, but Mr Crowther is on the path to proving the State can produce for supermarkets.
Businesses with less than $25 million in annual revenue and 50 or fewer full-time employees can apply for funding from the Coles Nurture Fund.
CONSUMER FOCUS FROM COLES:
GRAZE is Coles’ answer to strong consumer demand for grassfed beef – and a focus on young, well-finished British-bred cattle and their crosses is delivering results.
Coles national livestock manager for beef, Stephen Rennie, has been involved with the project from the start, and said a Coles-specific accreditation program was key to ensuring the beef was quality.
Developed in conjunction with the Cattle Council of Australia, the accreditation is based on PCAS, but with additional consumer-driven requirements about management of the cattle and the environment where they were raised.
Mr Rennie said the accreditation itself was a 78-question assessment able to be completed on an iPad.
20 per cent of the supply base will also have annual on-site audits, carried out by AUS-MEAT, which also conducts PCAS audits.
Developed in 2013 and launched in 2014, Mr Rennie said the program has more than 200 producers supplying the GRAZE brand.
Bill Crowther, Clematis, Wyoming, and Sweetwater, Central Queensland, was the first Queensland producer to find a way to supply, with help from the Nurture Fund.
In sourcing grassfed cattle, Mr Rennie said he was looking for milk to two tooth cattle dressing between 220kg and 290kg, of a “very well finished, high quality”.
He said Coles had a preference for British breeds and their crosses in the grassfed lines, which was purely consumer-driven.
All of the grassfed beef is MSA graded, and Mr Rennie said he has been consistently impressed by the results.
“We get exceptionally good grading results because of the selection process we go through as part of the brand types,” he said.
This story originally appeared on Queensland Country Life.