A NUMBER of significant new Australian red meat supply chains made their first foray into branded beef competition in Brisbane on Friday, among 50 entries competing in the 2019 Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show.
Among them were the North Australian Pastoral Co, which entered a sample of its brand new Five Founders* grainfed beef, and Harmony Agriculture’s Black Pearl and Black Opal Angus and Wagyu beef brands.
Also making its Brisbane competition debut was Kilcoy Global Foods’ new Carrara 640 Wagyu brand, launched this time last year.
After more than 140 years as a ‘cattle’ producer rather than a ‘beef’ producer, the North Australian Pastoral Co under the guidance of new owner QIC last May announced plans to venture into a branded beef program for the first time, establishing a company identity on a range of grainfed and grassfed products, with a focus on China, the US and domestic markets.
Chief executive officer Phil Cummins told last May’s Beef 2018 event in Rockhampton that the company wanted to leverage off its historic name and provenance through retained ownership branding.
“History and heritage has a value, as does the clean, green, sustainably-produced attributes of the beef we produce,” he said. “It’s about how can we expand in the markets we are in and reach even more customers.”
Mr Cummins told the Beef 2018 audience that the company anticipated that one third of its revenue would within five years be generated from branded products, rather than cattle sales. More value was likely to be able to be extracted from the business if it was better able to better appreciate what consumers wanted.
“It’s about how can we expand in the markets we are in, and reach even more customers,” he said.
NAPCo chose not to offer any details about its new Five Founders brand (*mis-spelled as ‘Fire Founders’ on the RNA competition entry) seen in branded beef competition in Brisbane on Friday, citing a mid-year formal launch when more details will be revealed.
The product was entered in Brisbane’s grainfed class, showed little sign of marbling (perhaps a score 1, at best, judging by this photo) suggesting it is 70 or 100-day grainfed using NAPCo’s composite cattle, out of the company’s Wainui feedlot near Bowenville. Grassfed brands are also part of the company’s plans, it told last year’s Beef 2018 audience.
Also making its competition debut in Brisbane was Harmony Agriculture and Food Co based in Melbourne.
Harmony already controls more than 15,000 head of cattle across its feeding assets, supplying beef to customers in the Australian domestic and international markets, expanding into China, the Middle East and other destinations.
The company currently uses service kill arrangements at Northern Cooperative Meat Co at Casino, but has intentions to secure its own processing assets to service its brand program requirements.
Although it finished out of the major placings, the Black Pearl Angus 130-day grain-fed entry performed strongly, in a large field of some of Australia’s best known grainfed brands – some fed for up to 200 days. Equally, Harmony’s two Black Opal Wagyu F1 x Angus samples, fed a minimum of 380 days, stood up well in tough fields for marbling score less than 7, and marbling score 7+ entries.
Both brands had a ‘soft’ launch late last year.
Black Opal Wagyu is being custom-fed out of the Hell’s Gate feedlot near Balranald, NSW and Dimboola feedlot in western Victoria with Wagyu processing numbers already hitting 270 bodies a week. Given the big lead-times to produce long-fed Wagyu, first feeders entered the pens at Hell’s Gate more than 18 months ago, with first kills taking place in November.
The Black Pearl Angus program has marbling grade requirements of 2+, and 4+ also.
Most of the feeder cattle, both Wagyu F1s and Angus, are supplied out of southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
“Entering a market with a new brand has been demanding, and we have achieved success rapidly because of the supply chain we have bought into, its focus on genetics, and the first-rate animal welfare focus in production systems,” Harmony’s Duncan Andrews said. “The proven genetics and longevity of relationship with JHW Paterson & Son going forward puts us in a unique position to manage consistency and quality.”
Harmony would be targeting a number of geographic regions in export for both brand programs, in order to spread the risk, Mr Andrews said.
“China has the demand, and is an obvious target for us, given the investment profile in the Harmony business, but we see it as important to have a presence across all markets, from the Middle East across large parts of Asia. No one country takes all the body parts,” he said.
“Even though the programs are still quite new, we’ve established a good rapport with our growing customer base, both in Australia and overseas.”
“Setting up a new brand program like this from scratch has its obvious challenges, but the production and sales & marketing teams we have assembled are all well-experienced, and the process has gone reasonably smoothly,” Mr Andrews said.
The Brisbane competition’s Wagyu beef class for more moderately marbled carcases scores 6 or less was won by Queensland beef processor Kilcoy Global Foods, for the company’s Carrara 640 Wagyu F1 and F2 product.
After scoring two seconds in the brand’s first-ever branded beef competition outing in Sydney Show late last year, it represented a dream start for Kilcoy’s new brand program.
As reported in this earlier Beef Central article, Carrara 640 was one of a suite of new brands launched by Kilcoy this time last year, including the company’s first venture into Wagyu beef.
Cattle for the Carrara program are fed 400 days at Mort & Co’s Grassdale feedlot and Edwards Livestock, Lilyvale feedlot Condamine, producing carcase weights 420-450kg. Carrara Wagyu has already been exported into 19 countries across the world since its launch, with the largest proportion into Asia and the US.
Kilcoy’s chief sales and marketing officer Fearn Cholerton said the company had been greatly encouraged by the early results – particularly as the Wagyu classes included cattle carrying up to Fullblood genetics. He said on top of genetics, feeding and management, Kilcoy believed the processing stage, including attributes like latest chiller technology employed in the recently upgraded plant, all contributed to the performance of the end product.
The company’s Carrara entry in the Brisbane show’s Wagyu +7 marbling score class, and Ebony Black Angus in the grainfed class, also performed strongly in Friday’s competition.