The great steak debate: Where can we buy Rocky beef ?
LOCAL beef processors Teys and JBS have slammed recent media reports suggesting people can't walk into most Rockhampton pubs or butchers and buy a guaranteed local steak as "factually incorrect and poorly researched”.
A national report last week suggested that the Rockhampton region's two meat works were sending the bulk of their beef for export and while locally slaughtered beef was available in some places, almost all of it came back to Rockhampton in boxes from Brisbane and it was difficult for consumers to trace the meat to local graziers.
Living in the 'Beef Capital of Australia', it is a perplexing situation why local consumers wouldn't deriving the majority of their meat locally.
The Morning Bulletin has sought to answer questions about why this situation was occurring, whether there was a way to retain some beef locally, and where you can currently source local produce from butchers and restaurants around the city.
There are a number of reasons why this situation exists in Rockhampton.
These include the size of the local meat processing operations and their logistic efficiencies which are geared primarily towards export combined with market forces requiring access to quality tasting meat all year round.
AgForce's Central Queensland Regional President John Baker said there was locally produced meat available in Rockhampton, you just have shop around for it.
Mr Baker said there used to be local abattoirs and slaughterhouses in the region who could process smaller quantities of beef for the local market.
"But the government and health regulations and that sort of stuff has made it fairly uncompetitive for the smaller operators,” he said.
"The smaller processors might have an outlet for the choice cuts of beef but all the lesser quality cuts of meat, they have to try and find a home for, which is an issue for them.”
Mr Baker said larger operators like Teys and JBS prospered having the facilities and markets to get rid of those cuts of meat.
He said he would like to see more locally produced meat but it wasn't as simple as leaving a couple of boxes behind in Rockhampton before transporting the rest of the meat to Brisbane for distribution and export.
"It's economies of scale which the big meat works operate on, it's a bit difficult for them [to provide locally], it's added expense to put aside smaller quantities that a local butcher shop would be willing to buy,” he said.
"It's a bit of market forces, supply and demand, but it's not impossible to do.
"If our local butchers were to band together and perhaps go and approach the meat works, then maybe they could supply them, there may be some reason why it can't be done, I don't know.”
Teys Australia chief value chain officer Tom Maguire said it was not correct to state that Rockhampton produced beef could not be purchased in Rockhampton.
"It is a fact that 70 per cent of Australian beef is exported. This is because we produce much more than the 24 million Australians can consume,” Mr Maguire said.
"We do not sell beef directly to smaller retailers or food services direct from our Rockhampton plant.
"This is because it would be uneconomic for us to manage these logistics and would be operationally inefficient.”
Mr Maguire said beef produced in Rockhampton was sold to wholesale/distribution businesses in Brisbane.
"Some of this would find its way back to Rockhampton,” he said
Similarly beef from Rockhampton is sold directly to larger retailers, some of which would find its way back to shelves in Rockhampton supermarkets.
Unhappy with recent coverage of their meat processing facility and its ability to get a local steak in Rockhampton, JBS marketing executive Brad De Luca wrote demanding a retraction for the story describing it as being "factually incorrect and poorly researched” with "the misleading content in the story causing us considerable inconvenience, and angst among some of our valued livestock suppliers, staff, end users and customers.”
He claimed there was no record of anyone authorised to respond in the company being contacted.
"The JBS business processes up to 10,000 cattle per day in Australia alone (equivalent to about 9 million beef portions a day, depending on how you crunch the numbers), so our business relies on large scale importers and wholesalers that can take tonnes and tonnes of a single product at any point in time to move our production into the markets we sell our beef into around the world, including Australia,” Mr De Luca said.
"We operate in a large and complex disassembly business. However, in spite of this, and understanding the value both our livestock suppliers and more than 12,000 employees in Australia place on being able to access their locally produced meat, three years ago we employed a domestic business development manager and have changed our marketing strategy.
"The BDM's role is to engage with end users, such as restaurants and retailers, across Australia and facilitate the supply of our branded products through to end users via our supply chain partners.”
Mr De Luca said it placed great importance on this role nationally and with particular focus on regions where we have manufacturing facilities, including in Rockhampton.
"Aside from it being not within our businesses key strengths and capabilities to directly service 'end users', I can supply the following list of venues in and around Rockhampton that source locally produced JBS brands of beef and have it on their menus and retail shelves regularly, if not all the time,” he said.
He listed a number of venues in and around Rockhampton using JBS branded beef including the Criterion Hotel, Leichardt Hotel, Stirling Hotel and the Waterline Hotel in Yeppoon.
In addition to this, Mr De Lucas said two local businesses bought directly from the plant.
"Bernies Pie Shop buys directly from the Rockhampton plant purchasing blades and chucks weekly and Dwyers Bros Butchery in Rockhampton purchases cube rolls and knuckles weekly,” he said.
"This non-exhaustive list has been quickly put together without consulting our distribution partners who are primarily responsible for actually selling the meat into the end users. It is simply the ones that spring to mind.”
He also paid credit to the role Rockhampton played in supplying their five feed lots in Southern Queensland and New South Wales with a carrying capacity of 150,000 head of cattle.
"It would not be possible to manufacture this beef without the livestock supply (obviously) and consequently we take great pride in marketing the grain fed beef brands in the cattle supply regions also,” he said.
Where to find Rocky's beef
- Criterion Hotel - Royal rumps and cube rolls are branded on menu. The Criterion stretches a banner across its facade saying it sells JBS beef.
- Leichhardt Hotel - Spirit Group using Swift Premium products.
- Stirling Hotel - ran Acres Organic and Swift Premium during Beef Week
- Dwyers Bros Butchery - Buys direct from Rockhampton JBS, purchasing cube rolls and knuckles.
- Richo's Quality Meats
- Bernies Pie Shop - Buys direct from Rockhampton JBS, purchasing blades and chucks.
- Beaches Bistro, Yeppoon
- Waterline Restaurant, Yeppoon - Banana Station, exclusively processed at the Rockhampton plant and taken from Swift Premium MSA.