Production

How the Pearson family brought MSA scores up on a large-scale

Eric Barker, 03/10/2023

James Pearson says good handling processes are a major contributor to cattle grading well. Photo: Bull Creek Beef Instagram

ONE of the organic beef industry’s early adopters has returned some impressive eating quality results at the recent Meat Standards Australia awards, winning the ‘larger consignment’ section for Queensland.

The Pearson family, of Bull Creek, run 11,000 to 11,500 Certified Organic Santa Gertrudis cattle across four Western Qld properties – with the cattle bred at McKinlay or Blackall and finished at the company’s Taroom property, Dawsonvale.

They sold the well-known Terrick Terrick station at Blackall in 2020 to AAM Investment and bought back into the Blackall area in 2021.

The Pearson’s cattle are sold to Arcadian Organic where they are predominantly exported to the United States as a branded product. According to Meat & Livestock Australia, Bull Creek processed about 3800 cattle in the past two years, and topped results for Queensland’s larger MSA cattle suppliers with a 98.3pc MSA compliance and an average MSA Index of 61.02. Processing takes place under Arcadian’s service kill arrangement at Australian Country Choice, Cannon Hill.

Secrets to consistent MSA eating quality index scores

“Our cattle are marbling a bit over score two, which I think is really good for straight grassfed cattle,” Bull Creek owner James Pearson said.

“Winning this award confirms that what we have been doing is working and we are keen to continue down the same path.”

Mr Pearson said handling and nutrition were two of the biggest factors in achieving good eating quality results.

James Pearson. Photo: Bull Creek Beef Instagram

“To get cattle to grade well, you need to manage them well across the chain and try not to let seasonal conditions get to them too much – which is hard sometimes,” he said.

“The whole handling process plays a big part in getting them to point where you can give a good eating experience – the way they are handled, mustered, worked through the yards, the trucking process and all those factors.

“You only get to kill them once, so we really focus on making sure we have good processes and good infrastructure so they are in good condition when they get to the abattoir.

“The country we do finishing on at Taroom is as high-quality fattening as you can get and that really helps too.”

Bringing genetics in house

Mr Pearson said the company had brought most of its genetics in-house about 30-years-ago, focusing on breeding a straight line of Santa Gertrudis cattle.

“We have our own stud where we have up to 400 cows and we buy in top quality bulls to breed our own bulls,” Mr Pearson said.

“It is all very in-house, we don’t sell any of our bulls, we just focus on breeding a straight line of Santa Gertrudis. Over the time the herd has improved and that has been a big part of why we have been able to get cattle to grade well.”

Mr Pearson said the company was considering selling bulls in the future.

“When we think our bulls are good enough for marketing, we will look at marketing them,” he said.

“We also market some of our surplus heifers and this MSA award will help a lot with that.”

Organic industry coming into its own

The Pearsons moved into an organic beef supply chain in the early 2000s, where they partnered with an organic trading company under Richard Rains’ Sanger Australia. That partnership has extended through to Arcadian Organic under its current and former ownership.

“Our properties were in good clean country, there was a good premium in organic and we didn’t have to change what we were doing too much,” he said.

Mr Pearson said when the cattle market is low like it is at the moment, the organic certification comes into its own.

“The organic industry has grown a lot since we moved into and the market has stayed strong the whole time,” he said.

“It really comes into its own in times like the current, where the market really drops away, that the organic certification comes into own. We are keen to keep on that track and any acquisitions we make will be in country that can be run organically.”

Arcadian was also one of the first brands to become carbon neutral and Mr Pearson said he was looking into carbon projects.

“In the last six-or-eight months, we have started looking into some work with soil and a few things like that,” he said.

“It’s all in the early stages, we haven’t seen any results, but there is work going on in that space.”

 

 

 

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  1. Russell Pearson, 03/10/2023

    James under reved a bit, we’ve been using nothing else but Pure Bred Classified Santa Gertrudis bulls in the Bull Creek herd since 1969

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