Queensland is home to half of Australia’s cattle, but for beef producers looking to launch their own brand, there’s one big problem standing in their way, a lack of access to abattoirs.
- Lack of access to processing facilities has been identified as a major barrier for producer-led brands looking to enter the market
- The establishment of more small-scale processing facilities would be a key step towards addressing this ongoing problem
- Queensland is a fertile environment for more smaller-scale processing facilities to be established
Emerald beef producer Sonya Comiskey travelled the world before the pandemic studying branded beef programs and found the lack of access to processing facilities was a major barrier to up-and-coming producers everywhere.
“I thought that was just a problem that we had in Queensland or in Australia,” she said.
“I was really surprised when I travelled around the world to find out that’s actually the biggest problem for all branded beef programs that I talk to in both Europe and in the US as well.
“So, access to service processing, where you still own the product from start to finish rather than branded programs just being the business of meatworks.”
Ms Comiskey, who founded Southern Cross Beef, has released a report on her findings through the Nuffield Scholarship program.
“It’s very hard to get started, or you might be in a pilot phase.
“There’s practically no one that will take cattle for you where you can be export-accredited and MSA grading that uses decent technology and decent cryovaccing so that you get some shelf-life.”
Ms Comsikey said that the establishment of more small-scale processing facilities would be a key step towards addressing the problem.
“If we can help producers get into that space, so you don’t necessarily want to start out killing like 300 head a week or something, it’s quite a massive leap to go in that hard,” she said.
“If we’re able to deploy some smaller plants in regional areas, not only will that benefit regional economic development, but it will unlock a whole bunch of products that are out there.”
Building more boutique abattoirs
Josie and Blair Angus, the owners of producer-led brand Signature Beef, took matters into their own hands by building their own boutique abattoir.
“In northern Queensland access to processing is few and far between,” Ms Angus said.
“The key reason that we’ve progressed down this path is that certainty of access, the localness of access and it’s about the ability to be agile enough to be dealing with a high number of specifications and really producing to what our customer wants.”
Ms Angus said other producers who either had or were looking to launch their own brand were keen to jump onboard.
“There certainly is a lot of interest all around in the facility which is really good,” she said.
“We’ve had a few people come and have a look already and it’s starting to look very real.
For Ms Comiskey, Queensland offered a fertile environment for smaller-scale processing facilities to be established.
“Queensland’s home to almost half of Australia’s cattle and we’ve got some absolutely fantastic product,” she said.
“Through the central Queensland region, we carry about a quarter of the nation’s cattle and there’s some amazing eating quality or brand stories sitting in there, but those people can’t bring that to market.”