Small-scale farmers in Hepburn Shire say limited options for animal slaughter is jeopardising their ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy.
Tammi Jonas from Jonai Farms said their current options for abattoirs were ‘as good as it gets’ in Australia, but using a centralised commercial facility for slaughter was not ‘ideal’.
Animals from Jonai Farms in Eganstwon are transported to an abattoir in Kyneton.
Jonai Farms’ ethically raised pigs go into the abattoir with other industrial pigs, and they can’t get their offal back from the facility.
These are some of the reasons why Tammi and other small-scale producers in the region are working to establish a not-for-profit, collectively owned abattoir in Daylesford.
They have called themselves the Hepburn Meat Collective and they’re determined to radically change the food system.
We’re at the cusp of an abattoir revolution.Tammi Jonas, Jonai Farms
The collective has completed a feasibility study for a multi-species abattoir at the old Daylesford abattoir site.
It is envisioned the project will start with an abattoir, boning room and commercial kitchen, but could also include on-site composting, rendering and leather production, while ensuring highest animal welfare practices by locating holding pens away from the entrance to the kill floor.
It is not just in Dayelsford that farmers are looking for a local and ethical abattoir solution.
Farmers from across Australia joined a round table discussion at the Slow Meat Symposium in Daylesford on Tuesday afternoon to share their projects and ideas.
Daniel Cordner from Bellasato Farm told of his experience setting up an abattoir on his farm in north Queensland.
When his family bought the farm around three years ago, the closest abattoir was a 15 hour drive away. Their on farm abattoir was approved in September last year.
Mr Cordner admitted an abattoir was an expensive facility to own and operate, but it provided value to the family, more than just reducing stress for them and their animals on the long drive.
“The house is 50 metres from the abattoir. We can get to work at 5.30am and come back in to the house to get the kids dressed and ready for school… and if we need to change the schedule, we don’t have any issues working around any other processors or producers.
“There is little wastage. We sell with heads on and feet on and sell the internal organs. The wastewater is collected and utilised on the property.
“It is one prey into the abattoir at a time and the kill room is inside. I don’t like the birds watching their brothers and sisters getting slaughtered.”
Others are looking to different abattoir models.
Co-founder and director of Farmgate MSU Christopher Howe is working to launch mobile slaughter units.
If successful it would mean slaughter could be done on-site at different farms. The animals would then be taken to a centralised processing facility.
Mr Howe, who is the owner of Talbot Provedore and Eatery, said Farmgate MSU decided they would launch in New South Wales rather than Victoria, because of Victoria’s ‘unfriendly’ regulators.
Mobile slaughter units currently fall into a ‘grey area’ of Victorian legislation.
Their business model is based on buying the animal live off producers, then processing it, branding it and selling it with a product that is entirely traceable to its source.
Consumers will be able to trace the origins of a piece of packaged meat using a QR code that reveals where it came from, who grew it and the slaughter process.
“We’re all about no live transport, low stress and high animal welfare,” Mr Howe said.
“If we are going to invest resources and time in growing animals to kill them we should be about having the highest quality meat.
“We see an opportunity to encourage producers to commit to better practice and try to improve the regenerative agricultural practices of the producer.”
A group of farmers on the Sunshine Coast are looking to an alternate business model to solve their abattoir challenges. They are working to re-establish an old abattoir site in Eumundi that had been run by a family for 20 years.
Nina Saxton from Country Noosa, the group leading the project, said the next step for the Eumundi abattoir was to create a viable business model.
She said their current plan was to run an abattoir that offers a slaughter service under a farmer’s cooperative model. The other component of the cooperative would be branding.
“If you are under cooperative branding you would meet certain farming standards and a certain quality,” she said.
For Daylesford, members of the Hepburn Meat Collective will now review the feasibility study for an abattoir in Hepburn Shire and work to secure the old Daylesford abattoir site.
Ms Jonas said the collective was committed to a not-for-profit model and sharing the feasibility study with others working to set up their own abattoirs.
“Profiting off slaughter is why the industrial machine is such a problem,” she said.
“This will be a radical change to the food system.”
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