Processor continues to excel

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

When you think of a premium WA lamb brand, the first name that comes to mind for many is Amelia Park Lamb.

Developed by V&V Walsh more than 10 years ago, the brand not only is at home on the menus of WA's top restaurants but also available to consumers through major retail outlets.

V&V Walsh manager Peter Cody said Amelia Park Lamb was launched on both the retail and food service front simultaneously with the brand developed to identify the best lamb available in WA.

"The name Amelia Park is taken from the Walsh's South West horse racing stud and agistment property in Vasse, owned by Peter Walsh," Mr Cody said.

"The property has been developed to world-class quality standards and it is this commitment to quality that the Amelia Park brand represents."

The story behind the property's name dates back to more than 50 years ago when Vern and Jean Walsh bought the Vasse property from a woman by the name of Amelia Curtis.

Ms Curtis had taken over the farm from her late father, when Busselton was still a settler community in the early 1900s.

She ran the beef property single-handedly into her 70s, having never married nor had children.

This extraordinary pioneering woman made such an impact on Mr and Mrs Walsh that they named it Amelia Park in tribute.

Vern and Jean Walsh also established the Bunbury processing facility V&V Walsh in 1957, now owned and operated by their sons Peter and Greg Walsh.

It is this strong family history and long involvement in the South West's processing industry that has led to the success of Amelia Park Lamb.

Mr Cody said the strict criteria lambs must be selected for the Amelia Park label also guaranteed a consistent quality product.

V&V Walsh process 2500 to 3500 lambs a day. For the lamb to earn the Amelia Park brand it must meet the strict criteria: 16 to 24kg carcase weight; a fat score of 2 or 3 and have a light meat colour.

"Ninety-five per cent of lambs come straight off the farm, with the lambs we purchase from saleyards tending not to be used for the brand," Mr Cody said.

V&V Walsh was also starting to encourage producers to become Meat Standards Australia (MSA) accredited.

"MSA is a big thing for us, we are heading down that path and looking for more farmers who have been accredited as we feel that's what the consumer wants and is looking for," Mr Cody said.

He said preferred suppliers, such as the Roberts family, met Amelia Park Lamb specifications, with most lambs bought off farm ensuring Amelia Park Lamb maintained year-round supply.

Last year, V&V Walsh also used selective suppliers to feed 80,000 of its own lambs. Lambs are finished in a feedlot with the exception being spring lambs.

"Sucker lambs are used from mid August to November and then we go back to feedlot-finished lambs," Mr Cody said.

Mr Cody said V&V Walsh was always looking for more suppliers for the Amelia Park brand.

"There is a shortage of lambs both in Australia and worldwide," Mr Cody said. "There is good money in the lamb market and I don't see that changing soon."

Mr Cody said that because of the amount of time and money V&V Walsh had put into marketing and developing Amelia Park Lamb, it had been able to stand on its own both at a retail and foodservice level.

However, it has noticed a reduction in demand and a move towards alternative cuts.

This aside, Mr Cody still felt that from a producer's perspective there would be good money to be made from lamb for years to come.

Amelia Park is also making a name for itself as a premium wine and beef brand. Amelia Park Beef is available through distributor Ryans Meats, while Amelia Park Wines was awarded a five-star rating in the James Halliday Wine Companion 2012.

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