AN ambitious Central Queensland greenfield meat processing plant development is on track for launch some time during 2020, following the finalisation of council approvals in December and the approval this week of a $5 million Government grant towards the project.
Angus Pastoral Co’s Blair and Josie Angus, pictured, are planning to build a ‘boutique-scale’ abattoir catering for ‘specialist beef products’ near Clermont in Central Queensland under the business name, Signature Onfarm Pty Ltd.
The proposal this week received approval for a $5 million grant under the Federal Government’s Regional Jobs and Investment Packages program, through the Business Innovation stream.
The project will include the construction of an innovative 200-head per day (50,000 head per year) meat processing facility on Sondella Station, an Angus Pastoral Co property near Moranbah, plus an accommodation ‘village’ for up to 70 staff. An additional 20 personnel would be required in Angus Pastoral’s associated feedlot and cattle business, as a result of the impact of the plant.
The total cost of the project, according to the Federal Government’s grant advice notification, would be just over $26 million.
The business will include export-accredited slaughter and boning facilities, fit-out, equipment installation, rendering plant and effluent treatment facilities.
Operations will emphasise production of high-quality, value-added beef products, completing an integrated supply chain for the Angus family’s Signature Beef brand program, currently exporting to 30 countries.
A government grant statement said the facility will also provide improved access to processing for all beef producers in Queensland’s Bowen Basin region, with both direct supply and service kill options available.
Angus Pastoral principal Blair Angus said final council development approval had been received in December, after first applications for development were registered two and a half years ago.
“We were excited to learn this week we had been successful in gaining a federal government grant,” Mr Angus told Beef Central this morning.
“The government has seen the merit in the project and were motivated to support it, for local jobs creation and value adding reasons. This project is all about high-quality output and capturing maximum value from each carcase, so the value stays in the region,” he said.
The project is currently in detailed design phase, using consultants from Food Equipment Australia who designed Jack Burton’s Yeeda processing facility in northern WA, and who have worked on similar projects overseas.
Mr Angus said barring unforeseen issues, he was confident the plant would be up and running some time in 2020.
Several innovative features will be included in the new design:
- The first is the development of new hide-pulling equipment, which promises to do away with some of the perceived drawbacks of existing technology, surrounding carcase fat-stripping. This project is received MLA Donor Company support.
- The second is a new approach to the breakdown of the carcase. Instead of a chain system where cuts are harvested from a moving side of beef, the plant’s breakdown system will see cuts taken from the carcase from a central, stationary point.
“We’ve done plenty of trials on the carcase breakdown concept, and feel there are a lot of positives in it,” Mr Angus told Beef Central. “We’re confident we will get a better primal to trim yield, using the system – we’re estimating an additional 3pc.”
He said he did not accept that ‘bigger’ necessarily equalled ‘more efficient’ in the meat processing industry. “We’re confident we can extract high efficiency from a plant of smaller size,” he said.
While profitability had changed in processing since the abattoir project was first floated in 2016, Mr Angus said the emphasis was more on capturing greater value from each carcase.
“Profitability and access to kill space will change from year-to-year, but our budgeting suggests that even operating at 40pc of capacity, this plant concept would still be cost effective,” he said.
Angus Pastoral plans to continue to use its existing service kill at Northern Cooperative Meat Co at Casino, after the new Sondella plant is opened.
Three brands managed by the company are exclusively supplied by Angus Pastoral Co cattle, with two others relying on cattle bought from outside sources.
“Sixty percent of the cattle we process currently come from the Darling Downs anyway, so we will continue to use Casino in future,” Mr Angus said. “They do a great job.”
The company’s Signature brand cattle 120-250 days grained will stay in Central Queensland, perhaps also along with some grassfed lines, for slaughter at the new Sondella plant.
“We are looking to do the best possible job we can on those cattle, right here on-farm,” Mr Angus said.
He said opportunity would be presented for other producers to utilise the plant, either under service kill arrangements, or as bought cattle for Angus Pastoral programs.
“It is very difficult now for a producer in Central Queensland to try and get into branded beef, as the processing facilities offering service kill are not there for people to do that.”
Access to a wide spectrum of export markets would be important, including chilled access to China, he said.
“Integrity has been a fundamental part of our whole branded beef program business over the past 18 years. That’s what has led us to establish relationships with great customers all around the world – because they have faith in our integrity – and we think developing this facility will only underpin that further.”