Pastoralists who failed to diversify would have a “rocky road” ahead, Kimberley cattle producer Jack Burton said as he opened the doors to his new butchers in Broome.
The retail outlet, Yeeda Kimberley Free Range Beef, comes hot on the heels of Mr Burton’s announcement that he will open the region’s first domestic abattoir since 2004 with equity partners Kimberley Pastoral Investments. The facility is expected to process 60,000 head of cattle a year by 2014.
Describing his domestic beef product as “clean and green”, Mr Burton said he was not expecting to conquer the top end of that market.
The majority of Yeeda’s beef would be manufacturing grade for the export market, but the best produced would be reserved for local sales.
“It’s definitely not an Angus fillet – we’re not trying to compete with that sort of thing,” Mr Burton said.
He said although the Kimberley was the centre of WA beef production, people could not buy local product in the north.
“It’s at that point in time where we got off our backsides and opened up so everyone can have a crack at some proper Kimberley beef … we’ve got a product and we’re confident with its quality,” he said.
About three months ago, Yeeda started trialling the beef in an unlikely location: the Willare Roadhouse, 50km from Derby and 165km from Broome along the Great Northern Highway.
“We’ve just been blown away by how popular it is and the feedback that we’re getting … about the quality, tenderness and taste,” Mr Burton said.
For now, meat is processed and packaged in Gingin; once Yeeda’s second, smaller abattoir opens at Kilto Station, 60km from Broome, production will move there.
Mr Burton said with the pastoral industry still under pressure after last year’s live export ban, creating new markets reduced reliance on putting cattle on boats and secured the future of the live export industry.
“If people know they can sell 100 per cent of the product they grow, they can be a lot more viable,” he said. “By having somewhere to go with the non live export animals, it basically secures the pastoral industry going forward. It will be great for us, great for everyone.”
Construction on the new $20 million abattoir will start this week.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association spokesman Sheldon Mumby said Mr Burton represented the new breed of pastoralists who realised there was a strong future in the industry if they were willing to embrace change.
“This is clearly a sign of things to come for the WA pastoral industry, and for live stock producers who are taking a more proactive approach in value adding to their businesses,” he said.
“The pastoral industry has always accepted change, and it is individuals like Jack who are willing to capitalise on any opportunity to expand and grow their business.
“As in any industry you either grow and embrace change – or face collapse and die.”