FOUR decades of producing and marketing grainfed beef around the world has likely yielded a wikipedia-size volume of lessons but for those at JBS Australia’s Beef City it comes down to a fairly straightforward formula.
That is consistency of supply and quality and forging long-lasting relationships.
One of only two integrated feedlot and abattoir facilities in Australia, and indeed only a handful in the world, Beef City, west of Toowoomba in southern Queensland, is unique in the tight-margin red meat processing game.
Regardless of what the season is doing or how fickle the cattle and grain markets are behaving, Beef City processes just over 1100 head of cattle a day, five days a week, 51 weeks a year, turning off 18000 cartons of beef a day.
That makes it stand out right now, when short cattle supply is fast reducing slaughter rates across the country and forcing abattoirs to cut shifts.
Beef City is supplied by its 26,500 head capacity adjoining feedlot, which in turn is supplied by four other JBS Eastern Seaboard feedlots.
Cattle are sourced from Queensland to South Australia and inland to Alice Springs, direct from breeders who are selected on historical performance.
The JBS feedlot network, the biggest in the country, has 137,000 head on feed at the moment.
JBS has 25 cattle buyers sourcing steers direct from repeat producers.
“In doing that, we know exactly how those cattle will perform and therefor what markets their beef can supply,” Beef City plant manager Justin McCormick explained.
“In the grainfed beef market, our biggest competitors are often other countries and they are ready to jump on our market share if we can’t supply.
“So regardless of the livestock buying situation in Australia, we know we have to keep supplying our customers.
“Forging long-term relationships with the producers who have the article we want means we can be sure of what we are getting.”
Along with guaranteed supply, the obvious advantage of such an integrated facility is complete control over the feeding program delivering maximum efficiency so cattle can be supplied for kill in the most cost effective way possible.
The fact cattle are walked from the feedlot to the processing plant, saving the need for stressful loading and unloading from cattle trucks, not only delivers transport savings, it facilitates improved eating quality.
And now, JBS is tapping into that story in its brand development.
It’s just-launched premium brand Yardstick, a marble score two-plus grainfed offering to be sold in high-end restaurants and hotels both domestically and internationally, will be marketed around that ‘optimum environment’ concept, among other qualities.
The unique Beef City setup delivers increased carcase performance and a positive animal welfare outcome, JBS business development manager Denis Conroy said.
Beef City will be busy this month and into the future hosting chefs from all over the country, and around the world, where Mr McCormick, Mr Conroy and their team can explain, and demonstrate, the unique way their operation works.
The plant and feedlot has 905 employees across the abattoir and feedlot, 39pc are female and the average age 38.
“We like to foster relationships - with both customers and staff,” Mr McCormick said.
“A lot of meat processing plants at the moment are living hand-to-mouth. If it’s wet they can’t get cattle and if it’s dry they get too many.
“Our meat workers get paid every day and that sets us apart.”
Indeed, independent industry analysis has shown the Beef City plant and feedlot pumped a whopping $1.137 billion in the economy last year.
It has its own fleet of trucks located onsite and transports boxed product and hides direct to the wharves.
Around 20pc of beef is sold on the domestic market with the rest is exported to more than 53 countries encompassing every continent. Japan and Korea take the largest portions.
Beef City operates a natural gas fired continuous cooker to render product and turns off 115t of prime tallow and 65t of meat and bone meal a day on average.
It also produces more than 1100, or 50t, of hides a day.
Water is sourced from the Great Artesian Basin through a 867m deep bore and all wastewater is treated onsite through two anaerobic ponds and an aerobic one.
After the water is treated, it goes to a fourth holding pond that slowly releases to a dam that is used for storage for farm irrigation needs.
Just over 1000ha is farmed to help stock the feedlot.
“We control every part of the process, from purchasing cattle to feeding, slaughter and boning and sales and logistics,” Mr McCormick said.
“Where ever Yardstick is served around the world it will be exactly the same product - our customers can be confident in the beef they get from JBS.”