Issue Twelve SUSTAINABILITY
IN ACTION
Talking sustainability
from paddock to plate

Contents

Editor’s Letter

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Editor’s
Letter

 
 

In this issue we put some weight behind a word frequently aired but often difficult to define – and explore what sustainability looks, and tastes like, through the red meat supply chain.
 
In his People Places Plates section, Pat Nourse talks all things sustainability with Josh Lewis of Fleet, La Casita and Ethel Food Store in the picturesque Brunswick Heads – a chef and restaurateur walking his own path and shaping a sustainable model that works for him.
 
Mark Best takes sustainability to the taste buds in his Spotlight On section, speaking with various beef brands with a claim in the sustainability space – from carbon neutral to highest animal welfare – and asking the question, what does sustainability taste like?
 
We head to Orange in NSW for our second episode of What’s Good in the Hood with Myffy Rigby. A hop skip and a jump from Sydney, this regional food and wine hub is brimming with good times and exceptional local produce plated up by passionate people. Do yourself a favour and add Orange to your hit list.
 
Our Cut Two Ways shines a light on the lamb neck and it certainly glows in the capable hands of Rob Cockerill from Bennelong and Daniel Puskas from Sixpenny who turn this humble cut (from Grant Hilliard at Feather and Bone) into dishes that dazzle.
 
This issue’s Young Gun is farmer Tim Eyes. Based on the NSW central coast, Tim’s number one priority is the environment and this impressive young beef farmer is keen to connect people back to the farm and show that agriculture can mitigate climate change.
 
What does sustainability mean to you?
 
 

Mary-Jane Morse
 
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

 

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

People Places Plates

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In each issue, Pat Nourse brings us People | Places | Plates – a look into the inner workings of chefs, venues and menus around the country.

 
 

Josh Lewis at Fleet in Brunswick Heads.

On the Road Less Travelled

 

Josh Lewis

Fleet | La Casita | Ethel Food Store

 

For Josh Lewis nose to tail is just the beginning. He is all about the 360, paddock to plate, root to stem. He likes the road less travelled.

 
 
In opening Fleet in Brunswick Heads on the north coast of New South Wales and sibling venues Ethel Food Store and La Casita, Josh Lewis and Astrid McCormack have built businesses around how they want to live their lives. They’ve created a situation where, rather than trying to snatch a few hours of life around the edges of work, it all works together. If the waiting list for seats and the acclaim heaped on Fleet from authorities near and far are any guide, Josh Lewis’s road less travelled is proving irresistible to more and more people every year.
 
Back when guides still offered ratings in Australia, Fleet scored two hats from The Good Food Guide, two stars from Gourmet Traveller, and four-and-a-half out of five stars in The Australian. The New York Times described it as one of the toughest reservations in Australia, and in August of this year Fleet was named one of the best restaurants in the world by Food & Wine, alongside Noma in Copenhagen and Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York. The magazine described Lewis’s cooking as “thoughtful and ingenious” and the restaurant as “everything wonderful about modern Australian dining”.
 
Coming out of kitchen traditions where air-freighted truffles and caviar were mainstays, Lewis flipped his training to fashion a very personal understanding of luxury that is all about small and local, and trades elite for community. This is a very different understanding of what sustainability can be in Australia. And it tastes good.

Lamb neck taco at La Casita.

Lamb neck taco at La Casita.

At Fleet, prawn legs become a course in themselves and the parson’s nose from the chicken provides a textural foil for oyster and watermelon rind. The Cheeses Loves You blue cheese that Deb and Jim Allard make with milk from the herd of Jersey cows they run northwest of Brunswick Heads, shows up at the end of a meal paired with the tropical fruit jaboticaba, cooked down with spent coffee.
 
At La Casita, onion rings are dusted with cricket salt, and cobs left over from the wood-grilled corn are used to make lemonade. Lamb neck appears at the taqueria, slow-roasted under coals and topped with a zucchini pico de gallo and a salsa morita of grilled and smoked chillies and tomatillos. It will also show up at Ethel, where it will take an Italian turn with chef David Lovett’s Nonna’s eggplant and pine nuts, alongside the likes of cavatelli with ragù alla bolognese and beef rump served with cacio e pepe potatoes.
 
Perhaps most famously of all, no one in Australia has done more to turn veal sweetbreads into an Instagrammable object of desire. Crumbed, fried and made into a “schnitty sanga” laced with anchovy mayo, they have been lusted after for the last five years not just by chefs and offal enthusiasts, but a legion of linen-draped holidaymakers and Byron locals.

The Veal Sweetbread Schnitty Sanga - a Fleet menu mainstay for five years.

The Veal Sweetbread Schnitty Sanga – a Fleet menu mainstay for five years.

If you think that’s something, wait until you see what he’s doing with beef tongue on the menu now.
 
Tongues are sourced from Hayters Hill Farm, where Dave Trevor-Jones and his brother Hugh run 150 head of Hereford x Brahman cattle on 350 acres looking out over Byron Bay. The farm is chemical-free and has an on-farm butchery – employing farming practices that are sustainable and focused on the welfare of the animals. “It’s a family-run farm and they’re really nice people to deal with,” says Lewis. “It’s all grass-fed, they raise their animals really well, and they do all the butchery there. They’re a really good bunch of guys.”

Tongues are first brined then braised for seven hours and peeled.

Tongues are first brined then braised for seven hours and peeled.

Lewis takes the tongues, brines them and then braises them simply in water with onion, garlic, thyme and pepper at 120 degrees for seven hours. He then peels them while they are still warm, cools them in the cooking water, then once they are set, runs them through the slicer.
 
The fat settled on the top of the tongue’s cooking liquor is mixed half-half with clarified butter then brushed over purple and white wombok that Lewis buys from Palisa Anderson at Boon Luck Farm, down the road at Tyagarah. He grills every slice of tongue over charcoal, then layers the slices with the wombok and presses it.

Fleet’s beef tongue terrine - a labour of love but worth every moment.

Fleet’s beef tongue terrine – a labour of love but worth every moment.

At Fleet, discs of the tongue terrine are pressed out for service then just warmed and served with a sauce of fresh kampot pepper and a splash of the tongue stock. But the tongue good times don’t stop there. Not on Josh Lewis’s watch. All the terrine trimmings from service go to La Casita, where chef Saffron Brun-Smits will grill them and daub them with a pasilla chilli salsa and bung them on a taco.
 
Josh Lewis is very much the guy who lets the work do the talking. When the business has the likes of his partner, Astrid McCormack, as its face, and latterly manager Olivia Evans in the same role, and with Rob Mudge on cocktails, it is easy to let these very talented front-of-house people do the talking and carry the story. But Lewis is a smart guy, with plenty to say that’s worth listening to. He does what he does and keeps it sustainable – his way.

Tongue terrine trimmings at Fleet are used for La Casita’s tongue taco.

Tongue terrine trimmings at Fleet are used for La Casita’s tongue taco.

Life

Of

Lewis

As a teenage pub-kitchen apprentice in the southern suburbs of Geelong, sustainability wasn’t on the agenda for Josh Lewis. “It was all about food cost,” Lewis says. It was one of those big pubs where the management reporting each week went down to “the point-point-point percent”. Fighting food waste was important, but it was framed in terms of saving cents rather than the planet.
 
A chicken-parm and mesclun-mix pub kitchen, it nonetheless was a place where beef was bought in big pieces and portioned out with a bit of in-house butchery. “Pretty basic stuff, but when you’re 16 and you’ve been dying to get into the kitchen, it was pretty good at the time.”
 
The next gig was at the Geelong Sheraton. Not a lot of talk of sustainability there either, but it really depended on who was in the kitchen at the time. Lewis says when Matt Dempsey, a chef respected for his work in regional Victoria in recent years at Gladioli, Tulip, and The Belfast, came on for a while as sous, he brought with him ideas about breaking things down from scratch.
 
 
 

“Using the whole animal. Doing a bit more of the process himself rather than buying things in. That was probably the first time I had really looked at things from that angle in the kitchen, thinking there are other parts that can and should be utilised. That was good for me.”

 
 
 
Lewis had come to the kitchen already passionate about hunting and fishing – he and his older brother had been fishing competitively for years – and getting hands on with the product just made sense to him. “Even as an apprentice I had that interest, even if they were laughing at me at the time,” he says. “Looking back now, I can see that it was always the stuff that I was drawn to.”

Menu development involves thinking about other parts that can and should be used and letting quality produce do the talking - like this beef shin braised in red wine and garlic and served on grilled sourdough at Ethel.

Menu development involves thinking about other parts that can and should be used and letting quality produce do the talking – like this beef shin braised in red wine and garlic and served on grilled sourdough at Ethel.

Hard work and natural talent play their part in any success story, but so does chance. While he was working larder at the Sheraton, his teachers at trade school suggested he enter the Melbourne Culinary Pro-Am, a cooking competition that teamed apprentices up with celebrity chefs. Lewis’s team faced off with a team led by chef Shannon Bennett, and while Lewis’s team didn’t win, it gave him a chance to talk to Bennett, who offered him a trial at his restaurant.
 
In France they say you don’t want the three-star kitchen, you want the two-star kitchen that’s gunning for three. Back in 2003, Shannon Bennett’s empire was a single 50-seat restaurant in Carlton, but he was by no means short of ambition. The two-hat review in the 2003 edition of The Good Food Guide wrote, “while most others are doing laid-back Mod-Oz, Vue de Monde strives for the refined perfection of a Michelin-starred restaurant” and nothing the 19-year-old Lewis had seen in Geelong prepared him for it.
 
 
 

“I walk past this place and the music is absolutely pumping, and I thought, ‘oh my god, this is the restaurant. It was crazy. It was hard. But I fell in love with it.” Lewis was supposed to be there for the weekend; he ended up staying five years.

 
 
 
Sustainability was a mainstream conversation in the 2000s, but engagement with it in top restaurant kitchens was a mixed bag. At Vue de Monde, which moved to the Melbourne CBD the following year and went on to win its third hat, on the one hand flew in ingredients from around the world, but on the other was ahead of the game with a lot of its kitchen tech, being an early adopter of kit such as BottleCyclers. “But maybe I was also just too busy being in the shit to notice,” Lewis adds. The food was complex and demanding. The truffle risotto, he said, literally gave him nightmares. “The recipe for that one is probably burnt into my memory forever.”

Josh won an Australian Overseas Foundation Scholarship and used it to do a six-week stage at Mugaritz.

Josh won an Australian Overseas Foundation Scholarship and used it to do a six-week stage at Mugaritz.

As Lewis was finishing up his apprenticeship, his TAFE contacted him to say they’d nominated him for an Australian Overseas Foundation Scholarship. He won, and used it to travel to Spain to do a six-week stage at Mugaritz in 2008. Bennett was opening a restaurant in Oman, meanwhile, and offered Lewis his first head chef role at the new venue, so Lewis went straight from Spain to Muscat to set up Vue.
 
Not far into his time in Oman, Ramadan happened to fall in the summer, which put the whole restaurant on pause for the month. Lewis hopped a plane to Denmark, where he’d landed a stage at Noma.
 
 
 

“I stepped into the kitchen and said, ‘I’m not really interested in days off, I just want to get the most out of this that I can,’ so I worked pretty much every single day till I flew out.” It proved to be a game-changer.

 
 
 

“I still remember the first time we went to put on the stocks and there was no mirepoix, no aromats, just bones and water. The stockpot was left on the induction overnight and you hardly touched it,” he says. After years in French-style kitchens where things were done because that’s how they’d always been done, it was a revelation. Tasting the stock the next day made him realise there were different ways to get results. It made him look at his work anew.
 
 
 

“I think I’ve gotten rid of a lot of arbitrary processes from my cooking because of those few weeks at Noma,” he says. “That was a turning point for me.”

 
 
 
When Lewis got back to Australia, one of his best mates was working at Loam, the restaurant Aaron Turner and Astrid McCormack had opened in 2009 on the Bellarine Peninsula, about an hour outside Melbourne. Lewis joined the small team in the kitchen and stayed until 2010.
 
At Loam, sustainability was one of the founding principles of the restaurant. It was designed to be a close reflection of the landscape that it was part of. “There was a real emphasis on local ingredients, sustainability and a lot of foraging and working closely with small producers in the area,” Lewis said. By now, working with local producers had become a real passion for Lewis, something that Noma had galvanised, and his time at Loam confirmed.

Working at Noma taught Josh to get rid of a lot of arbitrary processes from his cooking.

Working at Noma taught Josh to get rid of a lot of arbitrary processes from his cooking.

Finding

His

Fleet

At only 14 seats - the essence of Fleet is small and local.

Small and local is the essence of Fleet’s identity. Lewis and McCormack opened the restaurant in March 2015, and at 14 seats, they are not joking about the small part.
 
More than a few people told them at the time that the site was too small to sustain a restaurant business. “We still get a few of those now,” says Lewis. Brunswick Heads back then was not the sort of place you’d think to open an eatery serving highly ambitious food with natural wine to match.
 
 
 

“People thought we were pretty crazy, and subconsciously maybe we believed them a little bit and that’s why we made the restaurant really small,” Lewis says.

 
 
 
But that was the plan: to make a restaurant where, if all else failed, they only had 14 seats to fill. “Astrid could do the floor and I could be in the kitchen, so we wouldn’t have too many wages if things did get bad. We planned worst-case-scenario.” But worst-case wasn’t the scenario. “We didn’t have reservations when we first opened, and in those first couple of days it was crazy, 30 or 40 people waiting out the front for the doors to open, so we had to change that idea quick-smart. We were busy from the get-go.” Ethel followed, and then La Casita.

La Casita - Lewis’ third venue to open in Brunswick Heads.

La Casita – Lewis’ third venue to open in Brunswick Heads.

Busy as it may be, there’s not a lot going in the bin at Fleet. Partly because the food is delicious and the plates come back clean, of course, but also because Lewis works hard to eliminate waste at every step.
 
 
 

“We have compost, we recycle, we eliminated clingfilm from the kitchen quite a while ago now, which has been a big one,” he says. “The spent vegetable oil from the fryer at La Casita gets picked up by people who use it to fuel their vehicle.”

 
 
 
Scrunchable plastic remains an issue, as do things like used bones. The thing that Lewis thinks might make a huge difference to the footprint of restaurants in Australia is a service that would take care of organic waste. “That would be huge for us, a game-changer.”
 
The benefits to chefs in working small and local are many, says Lewis. “There’s food miles, of course, but you’re also supporting the local community where you live and work, you’re building relationships with people, and then you can work towards using different things as a result. We have people now who grow things just for us, and that’s something that you can’t necessarily do from further afield. It’s beneficial both ways.”

Service at La Casita.

Service at La Casita.

And that’s before you get into really basic, concrete things that make a big difference to your bottom line and the quality of the food on the plate: your ingredients being in better condition, tasting better and lasting longer. “I spend a lot of my Wednesday mornings going out to collect ingredients from smaller producers that may not deliver, that may not be able to get in to sell their things at the market. It’s very different to just ordering something in. The quality is definitely a lot better.”
 
Lewis says he doesn’t see the time in the car visiting these farms as a trade-off for a chef so much as a responsibility. ‘If I want these things for my restaurant, I need to go and get them for myself.” Mondays and Tuesdays are for making the calls, Wednesday is pick-up day, then Fleet opens for service from three until 11, Thursday through Sunday.
 
“You get inspiration out of it too,” he says. “When you see how things grow, you’re not just thinking of one part. There might be something you’d normally get rid of, but you’ll try using it and sometimes a dish is born out of something like that.”

Lewis says when you get out and see how things grow, you’re not just thinking of one part and sometimes that’s how a dish is born - like his tongue terrine using Hayter’s Hill beef tongues and wombok from Boon Luck Farm.

Lewis says when you get out and see how things grow, you’re not just thinking of one part and sometimes that’s how a dish is born – like his tongue terrine using Hayter’s Hill beef tongues and wombok from Boon Luck Farm.

And then there’s the other key part of the picture: this is how Lewis likes it. Sustainability and working small isn’t the price to be paid for the lifestyle he and McCormack have chosen: it’s the reward and it can be one of the best parts of the job. Having these ingredients makes his work more pleasurable, as does the community connection.
 
 
 

“You see it when you go to the farms,” Lewis says, “and many of them run by couples who are doing all the labour themselves. Knowing that you’re supporting local people is good.”

The Story of Fleet’s Veal Sweetbread Schnitty Sanga

 
 
About that schnitzel. “I’ve always leaned more towards the fun things like sweetbreads and tongue rather than the bigger cuts of meat,” says Lewis. “I like to present them to people who might not normally eat them to show them how delicious they can be if you give them the chance.”
 
He’d always loved working with veal sweetbreads at Vue de Monde, and when he was opening Fleet it didn’t seem like that many chefs were using them, so he wanted them on the menu. But how do you sell veal offal in a beach town like Brunswick Heads, population 1,737? Everyone likes a sandwich, Lewis thought, so maybe that would be the trick to making sweetbreads more approachable. “I didn’t want to alienate anyone with our food. I thought calling it a schnitzel would help, too.”
 

Veal sweetbreads being prepared at Fleet.

Veal sweetbreads being prepared at Fleet.

When Fleet opened in 2014 he got his sweetbreads – both thymus and pancreas – from the Casino abattoir in northern New South Wales. (The pancreas, which is firmer, he says, gives best results.)
 
“I vac-packed them and cooked them very gently in a little bit of salt, olive oil and thyme, which is a little bit different to most of the ways I’d seen them prepped – a lot of poaching and doing things with milk – but I did a lot of trials and didn’t see the need to be doing any of that. I’d take them out, peel off all the membrane and then slice them into centimetre-thick rounds.”

Then it was flour, eggwash and panko crumbs. “We’d fry those, and then get two rounds of soft white bread from the Ocean Shores bakery, and then a mayonnaise with parsley, anchovy and Dijon mustard. Anchovies go with most things, so it just made perfect sense for me. Super-simple.”

Cooked sweetbreads are floured, dipped in eggwash, crumbed then fried.

Cooked sweetbreads are floured, dipped in eggwash, crumbed then fried.

Spotlight On

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WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY TASTE LIKE?

 
 

The current global population sits at 7.8 billion – an estimated 800 million do not have enough food to sustain them daily.
 
The objective of agriculture is to feed the world now and into the future – but with the population already stretching available arable resources and heading towards nine billion by 2050 – feeding the world is a colossal task.

Listen to Mark’s audio reading of this story.

 

Feeding the world creates a tension between agriculture, efficiency and the economy in being environmentally sensitive but without sacrificing economic viability. Can we be economically viable without cost to the environment? It is a tension between the past, present and future and a question for our livelihoods.
 
In recent decades, there has been enormous growth in livestock production, driven by increasing demand for premium brands from a burgeoning middle class in developing nations, which is putting additional pressure on agricultural systems.

A selection of beef from premium Australian brands passionate about sustainability.

A selection of beef from premium Australian brands passionate about sustainability.

In agricultural terms, sustainability is the pursuit of economic growth without depletion of environmental resources. It is also, in a holistic sense, about the human factor. It is about the ongoing ability for farmers to provide for our very existence; an ability under threat from the degradation of arable land through human activity that continues to deplete our most valuable resource; the soil.
 
The twentieth century saw increased pressure of population growth and the implementation of post-war industrial agricultural. Practices like fertilisation and use of pesticides; monoculture cropping and intensive livestock production; urbanisation, deforestation and increasing use of fossil fuels – designed to feed and fuel a growing world – have stressed the world’s arable lands to the point of failure.
 
 
 

The World Economic Forum’s top five long-term global risks are all environment-related. With that, sustainable agriculture, and perhaps more pertinently regenerative agriculture, is set to take centre stage. The concept of sustainable agriculture is not new – but it is the essential ingredient in feeding the world.

 
 
 
Regenerative agriculture is a set of farmland management practices that go beyond sustainable farming to rebuild soil health, a key solution to combating climate change and recapturing carbon. There is a broad agreement that weather patterns are changing and that agricultural systems must evolve to meet the challenges of an increasingly volatile climate.

Regenerative agriculture rebuilds soil health - a key solution in capturing carbon.

Regenerative agriculture rebuilds soil health – a key solution in capturing carbon.

Beef production, like any agricultural activity, has an environmental footprint and is a contributor to CO2 emissions. However, the Australian beef industry believes that it can not only improve the operating environment, but also actively reduce emissions to operate in a carbon neutral capacity. In fact, the Australian beef industry has set the ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.
 
I spoke to several leading Australian beef brands about what sustainability means to them – what does it look like in practice and ultimately, what does it taste like?
 
The Australian beef industry, through its Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, defines sustainability as the production of beef in a manner that is socially, environmentally and economically responsible by caring for natural resources, people and the community, ensuring the health and welfare of animals, and driving continuous improvement.

Greenham, the business behind brands like Cape Grim, follows the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework’s definition of sustainability throughout its operations.

Greenham, the business behind brands like Cape Grim, follows the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework’s definition of sustainability throughout its operations.

Many Australian beef producers feel that a regenerative approach to pastoral management and grazing is part of the solution. Regenerative farming is rediscovering the benefits of traditional practices and awakening to land management techniques suited to our environment, not those we inherited from our European forebears.
 
This new generation of farmers have a conscious radical pragmatism that comes from generations on the land. Rather than being evangelical outliers, they recognise that without immediate change, the future is finite. These farmers are using tradition, technology and science to ensure the long-term viability of their families, the industry and their largest financial asset, the land.
 
Three years of drought tested the capacity of agricultural systems and their ability to withstand such a prolonged dry spell. The choice was two horned – maintain stock levels though the purchase of feed and continuing to graze [to the point of degradation] or maintain the natural feed and soil holding capacity by selling stock at record low prices and restocking when things turned around. Both choices hinged on the desperate hope that seasonal rains would return.
 

Rob Lennon of Gundooee Organics.

Rob Lennon of Gundooee Organics.

Rob Lennon runs a herd of grass-fed wagyu at Gundooee Organics located about an hour out of Mudgee NSW. Despite three years of the worst drought in living memory and savage bushfires destroying his pasture, they were able to regenerate quickly with the return of seasonal rainfall.
 
 
 

“It is pointless to sit there hoping for rain. You have to be prepared for wind or dry or rain. That is a big part of what regenerative agriculture is. It is about resilience. I’m a microbe farmer. I don’t grow beef, I grow soil,” Rob said.

 
 
 
This mercurial statement can be taken literally, as Rob Lennon, like many like-minded farmers, recognises that biodiversity starts at a micro level and that soil is the fundamental basis of a successful agro ecosystem.
 
Rob puts this ability down to the 15 years he has spent ‘growing his soil’ – giving them the capacity to recover and allowing the farm a relatively quick return to positive cashflow.

Organic grass-fed wagyu on Gundooee farm.

Organic grass-fed wagyu on Gundooee farm.

Founded in 2017, Provenir holds the belief that the best quality meat comes from livestock that are raised to the highest of welfare standards. Their farm gate business model utilises a transportable, fully integrated meat processing plant that not only eliminates unnecessary stress on livestock, it gives them a rare insight into practices across a variety of properties and allows them to make an objective assessment on beef quality.
 
 
 

“What we are doing is not new – we are practicing an ancient tradition of processing at the point of production. In our experience the regenerative farmers we have worked with in southern NSW they are some of the most productive, economically viable farmers, and are also relaxed and happy people finding balance in nature, farming and life,” said founder Jayne Newgreen.

 
 
 

Provenir’s on-farm processing plant eliminates unnecessary stress on livestock.

Provenir’s on-farm processing plant eliminates unnecessary stress on livestock.

Flinders Island Meat was established by the Madden family in 2010 in the middle of Bass Straight. Now called Finders + Co, the multi brand meat-company supplies some of the best chefs and retailers in the country – along with the bold claim of being carbon neutral. On 1 December 2018, Flinders + Co became the first meat company in the world to fully offset all carbon emissions.
 
“We are about more than just meat, we want to ask the hard questions and tackle the big issues. Issues of sustainability, ethics and the environment. Questions of provenance, health and humanity. Ever since the advent of agriculture, humans have been rewarded when they work hand in hand with their environment. Equally, they are punished when they have not balanced the environmental ledger and caused damage to their own habitat,” said Managing Director James Madden.

James and David Madden of Flinders & Co - the first meat company in the world to fully offset carbon emissions.

James and David Madden of Flinders & Co – the first meat company in the world to fully offset carbon emissions.

“I believe the more we explore solutions with an open mind, the more likely we are to become more and more economically viable. Sometimes farmers can be cynical of new strategies or approaches – I know this first hand having grown up on a farm. Even if there is a more efficient, better suited approach to doing something, sometimes they are more comfortable continuing to do things the old way.”
 
 
 

“It is important that we continue to demonstrate that regenerative principles can drive greater profitability on farm. I think it is very important that we don’t characterise regenerative agriculture as a single mode of operation or a single set of rules. It is the principles that are important and everyone should be encouraged to pick and choose as many of them that suit their individual situation,” Madden said.

 
 
 
While yield has been the traditional metric for farmers and graziers it does not tell the entire story. Regenerative agriculture can increase profitability through a significant decrease in the cost of external inputs, such as fertilisers, chemical inputs and fuel costs, and an increased end market value. Increasing the value of the land asset at the same time is the financial cream on top.
 
Beef is big business. Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters and most efficient producers of beef – and was the world’s most valuable beef exporter in 2019 with total exports generating AUD $10.8 billion. However, producer profits tend to be low, affecting the ability to withstand unexpected shocks such as drought. Coupled with a range of social and environmental pressures – the Australian beef industry recognised a need to evolve the world-leading Australian Beef Sustainability Framework was established.
 
“As a major land user, the beef industry has a close relationship with the environment and is particularly exposed to environmental risks such as climate variability. The industry prospers through maintaining a healthy environment and thriving ecosystem, including soil, vegetation, water and air. The beef industry is committed to enhancing the ecosystems that foster productivity, while fulfilling its role as environmental stewards,’ part of the Framework reads.
 
While strict regenerative criteria may be challenging for large scale producers, the Framework does highlight the same issues and a similar response. The industry needs to adapt to the changing environment by improving land management practices through the mitigation of nutrient and sediment loss and efficient use of water as a means to mitigating and managing climate change risk.

Cattle on a NAPCo property in northern Australia - NAPCo launched Australia’s first carbon neutral certified beef brand in 2019.

Cattle on a NAPCo property in northern Australia – NAPCo launched Australia’s first carbon neutral certified beef brand in 2019.

Five Founders, launched in 2019, is a subsidiary of one of Australia’s largest and oldest cattle companies, The North Australian Pastoral Company. NAPCo manages a herd of 200,000 cattle, across six million hectares of land throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory [some 1% of Australia’s land mass].
 
Sales General Manager James Carson says that they have achieved improved productivity through carefully managing soils and grasses using appropriate livestock grazing practices and improvements to their cattle herd through an internal genetics program.
 
In 2019, Five Founders became Australia’s first carbon neutral certified beef brand, through their long-term approach to vegetation and land management, and are on a journey to continue to reduce their carbon footprint through many initiatives including the shift to renewable energy sources and biodiversity across stations and methane reduction through feed additives.
 
 
 

“Regenerative agriculture is more economically viable in some segments of agriculture than others. For a traditional grass finished cattle producer, regenerative agriculture throws up fewer challenges than a traditional grain grower for example. There is no doubt that regenerative agriculture is attracting more interest and as more participants enter this space, viability will become more common place.”

 
 
 

NAPCo's James Carson says that moving from traditional to regenerative agriculture requires a change in mindset, practices and inputs.

NAPCo’s James Carson says that moving from traditional to regenerative agriculture requires a change in mindset, practices and inputs.

“Moving from traditional to regenerative agriculture requires a change in mindset, practices and inputs. Consumers want to feel good about their purchase decision so by providing a sustainable option to them makes perfect sense. Customers in developed markets have the disposable income to pay for this attribute and it is a growing market,” Carson said.
 
Greenham – the business behind beef brands like Cape Grim and Bass Strait – works with the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework to follow its definition of sustainability in their operations. Their approach involves looking at the whole picture across animal welfare, economic resilience, environmental management and community.

Greenham looks at sustainability as the whole picture across animal welfare, economic resilience, environmental management and community.

Greenham looks at sustainability as the whole picture across animal welfare, economic resilience, environmental management and community.

“Grass-fed beef from sustainably grazed pastures reduces top soil erosion and decreases the emission of methane and greenhouse gasses, while removing carbon dioxide from the atmospheres. Our brand Cape Grim uses only cattle sourced from Tasmanian farms, which operate in a very sustainable environment with 80% of the islands energy requirements coming from renewable sources.”
 
 
 

“In essence, to regenerate is to renew or to restore. In beef production, our farmers are continually restoring their land and increasing welfare practices as this is fundamental to producing high quality grass-fed beef and ultimately their business productivity,” said Marketing Manager Jelena Radisic.

 
 
 
Provenir’s Jayne Newgreen is pragmatic that no matter how ‘sustainable’ a beef brand is, it will count for nothing if the eating quality is not there to back up sustainable practices. Jayne says that consumers will not sacrifice quality over the notion of sustainability.
 
“Consumers are looking for more than just a catchphrase and ‘sustainable’ is not a clear definition. The restauranteurs and customers that Provenir supplies are incredibly savvy, they want more and deserve more than a catchphrase. We give customers knowledge and empower them to make up their own mind as to how our vision of sustainability and regenerative farming fits into their ethos of sustainable beef,” she said.

Provenir’s Jayne Newgreen says sustainability will count for nothing if the quality doesn’t back it up.

Provenir’s Jayne Newgreen says sustainability will count for nothing if the quality doesn’t back it up.

James Madden believes there is a financial imperative to sustainable Australian beef and an opportunity to transform the market.
 
“Developed markets such as the US, Europe, Japan and Singapore are increasingly placing a higher and higher importance on the sustainability attributes of products. If we are able to differentiate ourselves within these markets, then it is just another step for our industry to continue to transform from a commodity based market to a branded product based market, with better premiums to match,” he said.
 
At the Wilmot Cattle Co in NSW’s New England Tablelands, manager Stuart Austin has a long held passion for holistic management and regenerative agriculture.
 
 
 

“We know that diversity in our system is critical and we have a commitment to the ecological improvement of our land. There is a symbiotic relationship between soil, plants and animals and our role is to enable that to ensure that our soil is active, functioning and healthy.”

 
 
 
“It is a constant learning journey what we are doing. I want to share with others for their betterment and for the betterment of our industry and fundamentally for the betterment of our world. We know that the more of our industry that can uptake regenerative agriculture principles that will put more carbon in our soils across Australia and across the world. And we will be contributing to the reversal of climate change,” Stuart said.
 
With leading brands and producers like these – and an industry committed to the continual improvement of itself across a suite of sustainability indicators – what does sustainability taste like?
 
It tastes like hope for the future.

What’s Good in the Hood

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Each issue we explore a new neighbourhood with Myffy Rigby for the best eats and treats in the local community.

ORANGE NSW

 
 

What an absolute treat for our second episode of What’s Good in the Hood with the mythical Myffy Rigby who dubbed our trip to Orange ‘the greatest week of 2020’ – and she wasn’t wrong.
 
Regional NSW has had its fair share of challenges of late – through drought and fire to a global pandemic – and Orange, in the NSW Central West, has not been immune. However, its proximity to Sydney, abundant local produce and community spirit has seen Orange emerge as one of the hottest destinations on the 2020 travel list.
 
With a new wave of hot young foodservice talent heading west of the mountains for a tree change and a community revived by the opportunity to not only evolve but genuinely thrive out of the COVID crisis – Orange really is the new black.
 
Here’s What’s Good in the Orange Hood.

Myffy having ‘the greatest week of 2020’ in and around Orange NSW.

Myffy having ‘the greatest week of 2020’ in and around Orange NSW.

ELLWOOD EATERY – SMOKING BROTHERS CATERING

 

American cheeseburger

 

Twin brothers Ben and David Allcock have injected the concept of takeaway with their technical chef expertise to bring Orange an American style diner where the attention-to-detail menu would hold its own anywhere from Texas to Tennessee.
 
For us, it was a crash course in how to make (and then eat) their American Cheeseburger – and we were not disappointed. An epic 200g oak smoked beef patty with American cheddar, pickles, onions, mustard aioli and smoky chipotle ketchup. The patty is made from twice minced 100% brisket then hand rolled and pressed with house made bbq spice rub. It is then smoked low and slow over oak wood before finishing on the grill with signature burger glaze.
 
A burger full of flavour to savour at every bite.

Ellwood Eatery’s American Cheeseburger.

Ellwood Eatery’s American Cheeseburger.

CHARRED KITCHEN & BAR

 

Lamb rump, mint jelly & peas

 
Charred is, as the name suggests, a restaurant where everything is cooked in the custom built wood fire oven, aptly named Lucifer. Headed up by chef Liam O’Brien, who worked for several years under David Thompson along with stints at Bistro Moncur and Bentley, the menu is inspired by thai cuisine’s balance of salt, sweet, sour and spice – applied to local produce cooked in various ways over coals and fire.
 
The set menu showcases the best of local produce including this dish of lamb rump briefly cooked ‘dirty’ direct on the coals for an incredibly crisp and smoky charred finish on the succulent, tender lamb.

Lamb rump cooked ‘dirty’ on the coals in Lucifer - Charred’s custom built wood fire oven.

Lamb rump cooked ‘dirty’ on the coals in Lucifer – Charred’s custom built wood fire oven.

THE OLD MILL CAFE

 

Lemon curd & passionfruit Belgian cake

 
A wonderful thing about Orange is the lovely little villages surrounding it – perfect for a leisurely countryside drive. One such village is Milthorpe and it should be on everybody’s list. We stopped for coffee and cake with the beautiful Bronwyn Spasic – who had owned the business just seven weeks when we dropped in.
 
Bronwyn’s grandmother taught her how to make Belgian cake and Bronwyn now does the world a favour, baking up fresh batches of the decadent cake for everyone to experience. Made from a buttery dough as opposed to a batter, Bronwyn uses the best of seasonal produce to adorn it – for us, it was home made lemon curd and passionfruit and we were far from disappointed.
 

Homemade lemon curd and passionfruit Belgian cake.

Homemade lemon curd and passionfruit Belgian cake.

ANTICA AUSTRALIS  

Agnello alla Romana – Lamb cooked Roman style

 
Enter the tiny village called Carcoar and you may not want to leave. Dubbed ‘the town that time forgot’ its heritage building lined main street is like going back in time. On the corner you’ll find Antica Australis – step inside and you’ll be instantly transported to the Italian countryside.
 
In the kitchen you’ll find Paolo, a former welder, at the helm of what Myffy calls ‘one of the most interesting regional Italian restaurants in the state let alone the country’. Out front is Kelly, with a background in corporate comms, she’s telling the stories. And everything here has a story – from the hand crafted plates from the local potter, to the wine vessels based on traditional terracotta drinking cups – and then, there is the food. Only open on the weekend and currently offering a monthly set-menu designed to showcase the best of regional and seasonal produce – Antica Australis is everything we love about hospitality.

Agnello alla Romana at Antica Australis.

Agnello alla Romana at Antica Australis.

Blue cheese gelato - a cheese plate and ice cream rolled into one.

Blue cheese gelato – a cheese plate and ice cream rolled into one.

For us, Paolo cooked up Agnello alla Romana – a traditional dish from Paolo’s mountain top village in Ciociaria. Succulent lamb loin chops cooked with an anchovy sauce – a harmonic pairing punching in the umami stakes. Add the thrice cooked potatoes, seasonal broccolini and a splash of local wine – and be whisked away to Italy without boarding a plane.
 
Special shout out to our dessert – an incredible blue cheese gelato made by local ice creamery Split Milk Bar using cheese from The Second Mouse – served with yellow box honey and walnuts. Strong finish.

SISTER’S ROCK RESTAURANT – BORRODELL ESTATE

 

Lamb rump with miso caramel & artichoke heart

For the best views in Orange – only Borrodell Estate will do. Perched on the slopes of Mount Canobolas, kick back and enjoy panoramic views across the valley and some of the region’s best cool climate wines paired with a seasonal menu prepared by Pilu at Freshwater alumni Charles Woodward.
 
With sloping hills covered in vines, cherry and apple trees and one of the largest plantings of truffle trees on the mainland – it’s a picturesque setting for the restaurant. Making the most of locally produced meat and seasonal vegetables along with produce from their own kitchen garden, Charles offers diners an elevated interpretation of the local region.

For our visit, locally produced lamb was cooked over coals and served with miso caramel made from locally produced miso, pickled and grilled artichoke heart and flowers from the Borrodell garden.
 
Keep an eye out for the new Borrodell Wine Bar which was nearing completion on our visit – with floor to ceiling glass overlooking the entire valley and a hanging fireplace – the stunning space will be pouring wines alongside a separate bar menu.

Local lamb lighting up the menu at Sister’s Rock Restaurant.

Local lamb lighting up the menu at Sister’s Rock Restaurant.

THE SCHOOLHOUSE RESTAURANT AT UNION BANK

 

Beef tataki, mushroom broth, pickled onion & parmesan crisps

The allure of country air and a vibrant locavore culture played a part in the pilgrimage of ex Rockpool chef Dom Aboud to Orange to head up the kitchen at The Schoolhouse Restaurant at the Union Bank.
 
Working directly with a range of local producers, the Schoolhouse offers an upscale dining experience across a set menu that reflects the changing tastes of local and visiting diners. Dom says bringing people on a journey to try things they haven’t before in the regional setting is all part of the experience and front of house is essential in the conversion.
 

With menu items like tartare proving at first challenging – Dom says diners are now more adventurous and the beef tataki was born of a desire to encourage diners to experiment while presenting them with something familiar at the same time – as well as using the best local produce for the dish – in this case local beef.
 
Beef sirloin is charred briefly on all sides then sliced and plated with pickled onions and parmesan crisps. Mushroom broth made from local slippery jack mushrooms is then poured to finish the dish. An umami adventure proving to be a winner on the menu in Orange.

Beef tataki letting local beef sing in place of tuna.

Beef tataki letting local beef sing in place of tuna.

RACINE BAKERY

 

Beef & Burgundy pie

 
One of the originals of the Orange dining scene, Racine closed its doors permanently in May after serving the community for 12 years. Owners Shaun and Willa Arantz started Racine Bakery in April 2012 baking a small selection of organic bread for local businesses out of the restaurant. Shaun, who fronted the kitchen at Racine and now oversees the bakery operations is a self taught chef and now baker – with an incredibly impressive selection of cook books to guide him.
 
Now with its own shop, Racine Bakery is the hot ticket in town for all things bakery – with everything from organic sourdoughs to an assortment of pastries that would rival the best city bakeries. They have also just acquired the lease on the adjoining shop and are in the process of renovating to open a wine bar – which will serve bakery snacks alongside wines and provide a much needed late night wining and dining option for the community.
 
We chowed down on an incredible beef and Burgundy pie made using, of course, local beef encased in a buttery pastry. Chunks of decadently tender beef slow cooked and simmered in Burgundy – sometimes the simplest things in life are really the best.

Buttery pastry, tender beef, rich Burgundy - pies for peace.

Buttery pastry, tender beef, rich Burgundy – pies for peace.

THE AGRESTIC GROCER

 

Lamb buddha bowl

 
After a couple of days wining and dining all around Orange and surrounds – we’d suggest hitting up the Agrestic Grocer for breakfast or lunch and to stock up on local produce before heading home. Housed in a semi-industrial brick building on the edge of town, the Agrestic Grocer partners with various local products to offer a comprehensive taste of the Orange region with Badlands Beers and Second Mouse Cheese onsite and an abundant grocery of fresh local produce and their own range of pickles and preserves amongst nuts, oils, flours, eggs, wines, ciders and more.
 
In the restaurant, Agrestic has joined forces with some of the absolute best producers in the region with a keen focus on collaboration across waste management, sustainability, localism and nose to tail. Tuck into a tasty menu including the Lamb buddha bowl which is packed with lamb meatball flavour bombs, pickled cabbage and onion, cucumber, cherry tomato, mixed herbs, tahini and honey dressing.
 

Lamb Buddha Bowl - a colourful final taste of the Orange region.

Lamb Buddha Bowl – a colourful final taste of the Orange region.

Cut Two Ways

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THE CUT:

Bone-in Lamb Neck


 
 

The lamb neck is prepared from a lamb carcase by a cut between the third and fourth vertebrae. As a well used area, neck cuts contain a high amount of connective tissue which impart a rich flavour and tenderness.

Bone-in lamb neck.

Bone-in lamb neck.

Grant Hilliard from Feather and Bone says that having high quality chefs like Daniel and Rob cook with cuts like neck shows just how versatile these cuts are.
 
“To see people using cuts like neck again is crucial – we are whole animal butchers so for us every part of the animal is valuable. We don’t talk about prime cuts and secondary cuts – every cut is fantastic, it’s just a matter of what you do with it. They’re skills that we’ve lost that we need to recover,” Grant said.
 

“The neck is a crucially undervalued cut and there are a number of ways to cook it other than just stewing it. It’s got really sweet meat and a lot of connective tissue that breaks down when you cook it along with all the collagen in the neck bones which gives the finished dish a lot of succulence.”

The lamb necks in this feature are sourced from Margra Lamb from Oberon in NSW. Grant has recently started distributing the product through Feather and Bone, impressed by the way it is produced and the characteristics of the lamb itself.
 
“Margra Lamb appeals to us because we are focused on grass fed animals and Margra was developed to specifically be a very hardy and robust sheep that would fatten on grass exclusively. They have succeeded in that venture remarkably well and the happy accident in this breeding process is that they’ve managed to produce lambs with a very low melting point fat.”

Margra Lamb on the shelf at Feather and Bone.

Margra Lamb on the shelf at Feather and Bone.

THE BUTCHER:

Grant Hilliard

– Feather and Bone

 
 

Feather and Bone is a butchery and providore in Sydney’s inner west offering pasture-raised, heritage-breed produce. The passion project of former sommelier Grant Hillard, Feather and Bone was established 14 years ago with the express aim of sourcing directly from mainly NSW farms practicing regenerative farming.
 

Grant Hilliard amongst goat and lamb whole carcases at Feather and Bone.

Grant Hilliard amongst goat and lamb whole carcases at Feather and Bone.

“I was working as a sommelier in restaurants and so had direct access to chefs and already had a level of trust established. I wanted to create a market for farmers working with heritage breeds and give them a reason to persevere. The original idea was to sell whole lambs into restaurants – which proved to be a fairly limited market and soon enough people were requesting for the lambs to be cut up and so I learned how to butcher.”
 
“These days I don’t cut much, I have four butchers that work for me and I’m better placed maintaining and seeking out relationships with producers and visiting their farms. That’s one of the things that distinguishes us – we visit every farm that we source from.”
 
“We only buy whole carcases and every cut of meat that leaves us is identified by the farm that it came from and, if relevant, how long it has been aged for. That’s actually quite difficult to do across your entire range but what it does do is give people a very clear line of sight back to the producer and that to us is an extremely important aspect.”

"We’re trying to address the alienation from agriculture, from where food is grown and how it is grown - and confront the realities of what it means to grow meat. A lot of people say that its carbon footprint is too large but what we would argue is that animal agriculture plays a crucial role in the landscape and in nutrient cycling and that well managed ruminants are actually an essential part of any viable and healthy ecosystem."
Feather and Bone only sources whole carcases with every cut identified to the farm it came from.

Feather and Bone only sources whole carcases with every cut identified to the farm it came from.

“A crucial difference at Feather and Bone is that we’ve never really claimed to have quality meat – everyone claims they’ve got the best quality meat. What I’m interested in is meat with qualities in the choice of genetics, the way it’s farmed, how often it’s moved, what it gets to eat, how it is transported, how it is slaughtered and what we do with it after.
 
Deliciousness for us is a consequence of the decisions that are made well before that meat ever arrives on a plate and our job is to be the custodians of all those good decisions and to seek out farmers that make those very good decisions.”

CHEF ONE:

Rob Cockerill

– Bennelong

 
 

Pot roast lamb neck with verjuice caramel spring vegetables, smoky pepper broth & lamb tat yorkies.

Chef Rob Cockerill.

Chef Rob Cockerill.

Lamb neck is heavily caramelised before slow roasting in lamb bone broth.

Lamb neck is heavily caramelised before slow roasting in lamb bone broth.

Spring has well and truly sprung and Rob took his inspiration from the season – playing on the idea of a Sunday lamb pot roast tricked up with a colourful bouquet of crisp spring vegetables, shoots and flowers.
 
To make the broth, Rob first smoked and roasted a kilogram of lamb ribs then added them to a large stock pot with four kilograms of roasted lamb bones, mirepoix and about 10 litres of water. The stock was cooked on low for about six hours before being strained and reduced until thick and delicious. Black pepper was added to serve.
 
For the pot roast, lamb neck was seasoned with salt and sealed in a crock pot until heavily caramelised before adding mirepoix and green peppercorns. The pot was then half filled with the lamb bone broth and cooked at 100 degrees celsius for around four hours. Once cooked, the lamb was rested for 45 minutes before portioning.

For the verjuice caramel, a bottle of verjuice was reduced with 120 grams of sugar until syrupy.
 
For the lamb fat yorkies Rob made a batter of eggs, milk and buckwheat four. Lamb fat was rendered then poured into a hot muffin tray before adding batter and cooking in a hot oven for five minutes until golden and risen.
 

 Rob finishing his lamb neck pot roast with verjuice caramel.

Rob finishing his lamb neck pot roast with verjuice caramel.

Pouring the smoky pepper lamb broth.

Pouring the smoky pepper lamb broth.

To serve, the lamb neck portion was plated then topped with a selection of spring shoots, flowers and vegetables before pouring the smoky pepper broth and piping verjuice caramel over the vegetables. Served with a lamb fat yorkie stuffed with a roasted eshallot and a spring garlic and eshallot cream.

Rob’s lamb neck pot roast with lamb fat yorkie.

Rob’s lamb neck pot roast with lamb fat yorkie.

CHEF TWO:

Daniel Puskas

– Sixpenny

 
 

Braised lamb neck in smoked sambal with crispy rice & butter lettuce.

Chef Daniel Puskas.

Chef Daniel Puskas.

Lamb neck is braised in a cast iron pot with smoked tomato sambal.

Lamb neck is braised in a cast iron pot with smoked tomato sambal.

Coincidentally, Daniel had been learning about Maldive fish sambal from O Tama Carey at Lankan Filling Station when we asked him to create a lamb dish for us – thus the inspiration for his dish. For his sambal, Daniel replaced the Maldive fish with smoked and dried tomatoes which he thought was a better match for the braised lamb neck.
 
For the sambal, 2kgs of tomatoes were smoked and dried then roughly chopped with onion, chilli and curry leaves and cooked out on the stove on a low heat for about two hours. Ginger, tamarind, brown sugar and salt was then added and cooked for a further 20 minutes.

Who doesn't love crispy rice?!

Who doesn’t love crispy rice?!

The lamb neck was covered in the sambal in a cast iron pot and cooked at 160c until falling off the bone – about 45 minutes. or until falling off the bone.
 
Cooked rice is mixed with onions sweated in butter and chopped herbs then ⅓ of the rice is mixed with yoghurt. The yoghurt rice is coated over the base of a non-stick pan then the rest of the rice is added on top then cooked until crispy.
 
To serve – the rice crispy is flashed in the oven and dressed with a little oil from the lamb pot, butter lettuce is dressed and seasoned and the lamb neck is dressed with lots of tomato sambal.

Daniel's lamb neck is served with loads of tomato sambal.

Daniel’s lamb neck is served with loads of tomato sambal.

Daniel’s braised lamb neck with tomato sambal, crispy rice and butter lettuce.

Daniel’s braised lamb neck with tomato sambal, crispy rice and butter lettuce.

Young Guns

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Tim Eyes on one of the properties he manages on the NSW Central Coast.

Tim Eyes on one of the properties he manages on the NSW Central Coast.

FARMING FOR THE FUTURE

Tim Eyes

 
 
 

Tim Eyes is not your average farmer. In fact, this young trailblazer is far from average. He is on a journey to teach and nourish people through agriculture and demonstrate that farming for the environment has the potential to mitigate climate change – and that you can do it all without owning your own land.

Tim’s number one priority in his farming enterprise is the environment.

Tim’s number one priority in his farming enterprise is the environment.

Listen to MJ’s audio reading of this story.

 

Based on the NSW Central Coast, Tim and his partner Hannah manage The Food Farm, an agricultural business with a difference – they are farmers without a farm. They manage 250 cattle – 50 of which they own themselves – on 1,200 acres of leased land across eight properties.
 
“When people think about the Central Coast they usually think of surfers not farmers and certainly not farming land. We don’t own a property and we may never own a property but we see an incredible opportunity to farm on the fringe of Sydney and keep a close connection between our urban counterparts and agriculture.”
 
“The Central Coast serves up six million people within an hour of us that we have the opportunity to teach and nourish. There are not many farming areas that can claim that and we also get 1.5 metres of rain each year – so to not farm here would be madness.”
 
The Food Farm’s philosophy is to mimic nature. Its number one priority is the environment and working with the cattle to continually improve the environment – a shift occurring across many agricultural businesses in Australia.

"We think of ourselves as environmentalists – acknowledging that we are in a life cycle instead of just being land and animal managers. It is a huge shift from the way we used to farm when it was all about the animal instead of the environment that we are living in and how we can improve that. We truly believe that if our environment is healthy than our cattle will be too – by concentrating on soil health, that in turn reflects on animal health."
High density mobs are moved off land as quickly as possible to mimic nature.

High density mobs are moved off land as quickly as possible to mimic nature.

Cattle on Tim’s farms are moved into a new paddock every three days providing not only fresh pasture for them to graze but mimicking the natural migratory nature of animals and facilitating an essential recovery period for the land and pasture.
 
“When we reflect on nature in the past, a lot of animals and humans were quite migratory and they had a respect for what they took from the land and what they left as well. By moving our cattle so often we are attempting to mimic nature – where cattle would naturally move off land and not return there until a new season. We have fences and boundaries so we manage the cattle in high-density mobs that are moved off the land as quickly as possible to give it plenty of time to recover and allow the plants to live their full life cycle as well.”

“It’s really important to understand the plants that we are managing so we can manage the animals better and something we’ve been experimenting and trying to grow on is diverse pasture. We are working towards 12 species in a paddock because like us, cattle don’t like to eat just one thing and we are trying to give them a broad diet which they really enjoy. All these plants have natural benefits to keep them healthy and that reflects into the soil as well – so every year we are planting new species.”
 
“We have also seen the cattle become quite picky because their gut microbiome and the bacteria in it needs to change. They will come in and eat all the sweet stuff first and then later in the day you’ll see them eat more stalky grass so their rumen will work with that and it’s just great to step back and watch the cattle just be cattle, how they are meant to be.

Pasture diversity gives cattle a broad diet while also improving soils and groundcover.

Pasture diversity gives cattle a broad diet while also improving soils and groundcover.

The Australian red meat industry’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions has more than halved from 21% in 2005 to 10% in 2017 through research, development and adoption of emissions avoidance, carbon storage, integrated management and leadership. The industry’s unique ability to sequester and capture carbon through the carbon cycle is something that Tim, and in fact many Australian farmers, work hard to facilitate through environmental management.
 

“One of our biggest journeys is trying to capture and store carbon in the soil and that’s something we’re really trying to get better at and it is constant. If we capture carbon in the soil, we capture nutrients, which means less fertilisation. We capture more moisture and store all that rain so we don’t need to irrigate and it just helps our environment so much more.”

With a focus on providing a healthy and harmonic environment that has the ability to grow nourishing pasture all year round and produce nutrient dense beef – the Food Farm is direct marketing beef that is both grass fed and grass finished.
 
“We get asked all the time what grass finished means – basically ‘finished’ means when the animal is ready to be killed. Here we are able to grow cattle on grass for their whole life up to and including their finishing – and if we aren’t able to finish them on grass then we are not doing the right thing. We are at a level now where we grow good enough grass so those animals can finish and get enough fat on them to be the perfect product for our customers.”
 
The Food Farm team started their direct marketing journey with what Tim calls a ‘fairly archaic website’ offering direct sales to the consumer. They are now doing two farmers markets a month and their online market is growing every day with social media a significant driver of growth.
 
“Going to the farmers market has been great, we used to shun them and didn’t want to be slaves to the markets but having face to face communication and interaction with consumers is so rewarding. It is challenging as well – everyone is an expert and we get some serious feedback straight to our face about what we could do better. But we really appreciate that because we are all individuals and it is so hard to cater for everyone but we do find a way to do that.”

The Food Farm beef is grass fed and grass finished.

The Food Farm beef is grass fed and grass finished.

Collaborating with his butcher has helped minimise wastage and bring value to the carcase with products like jerky and offal mince.

Collaborating with his butcher has helped minimise wastage and bring value to the carcase with products like jerky and offal mince.

One of the most interesting things Tim has found in processing his own cattle has been addressing the use of the whole carcase and minimising waste. Building a collaborative relationship with his butcher has helped to make some new products that have not only minimised carcase waste but also increased its value.
 
“Working with our butcher has been great and we’ve been able to make some new products like our jerky which has been really exciting. It is smoked for 12 hours instead of just being dehydrated and has allowed us to turn a $20 per kilogram cut like round into a $75 per kilogram cut.”
 
“Getting back our offal has also been really interesting and it is quite amazing to see how many people are intrigued by offal but cannot quite bring themselves to cook a whole liver. One of the big things that we have done is our Offally Good Mince that has 30 percent beef heart and liver and 70% mince.
 
Being able to offer the nutritional density of organ meat with its iron and trace elements in a more approachable product has been really rewarding.”
 

“Figuring out how to use 60kgs of bones has been another challenge of processing our own cattle and so we are doing a bone broth. If we can find a way to pastuerise the bones, we actually want to bring them back onto the farm as a fertiliser. Every time we take a beast off the farm, we have got to think of that as energy being taken off the farm. We’ve taken the energy out of the soil and out of the plants and into the animal then removed it from the farm – so we want to get as much energy back to the farm as possible.”

Tim says there are many challenges in being a young farmer – including the fact that in Australia, the average age of farmers in 2020 is 63. It is a scary fact for the world but, as bleak as it is, Tim says it also means that in the next thirty years that the majority of farms, farm equipment and cattle will have to change hands. He sees this as a huge opportunity for young farmers to farm, bring new ideas, address environmental and social challenges and connect the consumer.
 
“We have more connection in this world than we have ever had as young farmers and as an industry. Social media and the capacity to tell our story and the ability to do good is incredible. We are saturated with information and what is very challenging for agriculture is misinformation – owning our story and being brave enough to tell it is a huge opportunity.”
 
“I think a key problem with society is our disconnection to death and I find that we really struggle with the whole concept. The connection back to farms is vital in being able to see life cycles and show that a good life is a good death in many ways. These animals are living their ultimate life under the correct management and care and love – that’s such an integral part for young farmers and it’s a story worth telling.”

Tim believes there is a huge opportunity for young farmers in Australia.

Tim believes there is a huge opportunity for young farmers in Australia.

Tim says that agriculture can mitigate climate change and that young farmers need to farm for our environment.

Tim says that agriculture can mitigate climate change and that young farmers need to farm for our environment.

“As young farmers it is vital that we really stand up and farm for our environment. I want to show that agriculture can mitigate climate change and that we can change the face of the earth by using animal land impact and sequestering as much carbon as we possibly can. We just need to do the right thing and we just need to be honest about it.”

Fast Facts

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Fast Facts

The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework defines sustainability as the production of beef in a manner that is socially, environmentally and economically responsible by caring for natural resources, people and the community, ensuring the health and welfare of animals, and driving continuous improvement.

The Australian red meat and livestock industry has set the ambitious target of being Carbon Neutral by 2030 (CN30). This target means that by 2030, Australian beef, lamb and goat production, including lot feeding and meat processing, will make no net release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere.

Since 2005, the Australian beef industry has reduced its CO2 emissions by 56.7 percent.

In the last five years, the industry has reduced the amount of water required to raise cattle from 515 litres per kilogram to 486 litres per kilogram.

The number of cattle properties covered by a documented biosecurity plan has increased from 25 percent to 90 percent.

Next Issue

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Next Issue

 
 

Issue 13 will hit your screens in January 2021; celebrating women through the Australian red meat supply chain from farmers to front of house, chefs to butchers and more.