Hay bale has flavour of WA

Hay bale has flavour of WA
Camera IconHay bale has flavour of WA Credit: Countryman

Bushfires in January destroyed the south-west town of Yarloop and laid siege to nearby Waroona and Harvey, all in the very heart of prime West Australian beef cattle country.

Myalup farmers Graham and Mia Rose were caught in the middle of hay cutting, managing to roll one last round bale before retreating from the fire which had begun to engulf their farm.

That bale was recently bought by Western Meat Packers Group, which paid a probable world record $30,000 (for a round bale of hay) when WMPG chief executive officer, Andrew Fuda, made the winning bid at a charity auction at Harvey.

Harvey born and raised, Mr Fuda personally knew many of the affected farmers, so he, along with WMPG, which sources plenty of cattle from the fire affected region, wanted to help.

Proceeds from that bale, along with other money raised on the night, have gone to local Lions and Rotary clubs, which are now distributing the funds to fire affected farmers on a needs basis.

The unique bale, smoke infused from ancient WA jarrah, red gum and peppermint trees, has now been fed out to select steers at Paul O’Meehan’s Borden beef feedlot in WA’s Great Southern, where he grain finishes steers for 120 days, under contract to WMPG, supplying 84 per week at about 360kg carcase weight.

The cattle are fed a diet of tempered barley, lupins, silage, hay and supplements.

Beef from the O’Meehan steers fed the ‘smokey bale’ is destined for Japan, whose consumers are the world’s most passionate when it comes to enjoying high quality, grain-fed Australian beef, taking about half what Australia produces.

Mr O’Meehan applauded WMPG for what he described as the “great job” they do in processing the cattle for the Japanese markets.

“I believe we have the quality of cattle needed by the Japanese and also the quality of grain and, most importantly, we have a contract with WMPG that feels like a real partnership, with feedback.”

According to WMPG Export Manager, Matt Leahy, WMPG’s trade with Japan involves exclusive business with Hannan Foods Group, which supplies Japan’s high end food service sector.

WMPG beef carcases are divided into 20 cuts, then packaged and shipped, along with trim and offals, weekly in two sea containers, to HFG’s wholesale facilities in Osaka and Tokyo.

“We see Japan as a major market trading partner for our high end quality beef and we expect volume to grow, especially as demand increases for traceable, branded beef and as consumer tastes and expectations continue to evolve,” Mr Leahy said.

WMPG was not only happy to financially support the fire-affected south west farmers, but also delighted to be able to highlight what some might refer to as ‘flavour enhanced’ WA export beef.

WMPG itself is no stranger to the ravages of fire. In 2009, WMPG’s then headquarters and boning room in the WA industrial suburb of O’Connor was burnt to the ground following an electrical fault.

Although owner Rod Russell could have walked away from the business, he chose not to, continuing to employ his equally committed workforce, despite dropping to 100 head of cattle a week and having to access temporary boning facilities, before later gearing up to full capacity at the company’s current Osborne Park premises.

An integrated operation, Western Meat Packers Group today has an abattoir and farm at Margaret River, farm at Brunswick, state-of-the-art boning and packing facility at Osborne Park, specialist hi-tech packing facility at Bibra Lake, Perth Skin and Hides at Coogee and offices in China, Thailand and South Korea.

WMPG has invested millions of dollars into upgrading machinery and technology at its Osborne Park beef and lamb facility in the past few years, where about 150 people are now employed and which weekly processes about 2000 head of cattle and 1000 lambs.

About 320 people are employed across the Group’s operations.

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