Eketahuna Meat and Milk
A farm based meat, milk and eggs delivery service s
Processing, retailing and delivering meat, milk and eggs to households in the Greater Wellington region has grown into a 7-day-a-week business employing 11 people for Steve and Pip Olds, farmers at Eketahuna in Wairarapa. They have re-introduced home milk deliveries in glass bottles to a region containing 500,000 people and the volume is growing rapidly.
Steve Olds was a livestock agent with a sheep and beef farm near Eketahuna when seven years ago he and wife Pip wanted to increase economic viability by ironing out the price variations for finished animals by selling meat direct to consumers. They started with their own cattle and lambs, processed by a local butcher and delivered by couriers.
Four years ago they took on a chilled processing, storage and dispatch premises at nearby Masterton and employed qualified butchers. They built up the customer base by attending up to five farmers markets in Wellington each week and with a website for ordering.
In mid-2019 they added milk bottling and delivery and now have four drivers covering Palmerston North, Levin, Wairarapa and Wellington. Now 90% of sales are delivered, much reducing the delivery risks of couriering.
The Olds have been marketing and selling meat through an e-platform for eight years, called Eketahuna Meats (named after their farm’s location). The business was started from scratch. The intention was to boost their income from a small number of finished cattle and lambs from the home farm and escape the price variations that were part of the meat company schedules. They had no background in meat processing, wholesaling or retailing. Buyer numbers and quantities sold have doubled year-on-year as the business has grown. Steve says they now have between 3000 and 4000 people on their meat database.
Livestock supplies now come from Glenburn Station and the McFadzean family, where Steve used to work as a young man. Glenburn is on the South Wairarapa coast and is a traditional New Zealand sheep and beef station, running 10,000 sheep and 1,000 cattle. All the beef is Angus. Beef now accounts for half of the ECMM of the meat sales, lamb one quarter and pork one quarter, sourced by wholesaler Freedom Farms from pig farms in Canterbury. Wild venison and wild goat meats can also be purchased through ECMM when available.
After a few years using a local butcher contracted for services, four years ago they took a lease on the meat processing and storage facilities on the Bentley Street site in Masterton, where five people now work at the butchery. This is open to the public although the majority is sold on-line. The premises were certified from scratch by Masterton District Council and MPI as a secondary meat processor. All slaughtering is done at Taylor Preston, in Wellington.
A big challenge is to balance sales of cuts from the carcass – to sell all products in the right proportions and not have some less-desirable items left over. “We need to sell a lot of mince and sausages,” says Steve. Product traceability is the primary reason for purchasing by customers, followed by meat quality and home delivery.
Home-delivered milk was added to the business in mid-2019 and has provided a big leap in turnover and in employment – two people at the milk plant in Wiltons Rd, and four overnight delivery drivers. The Olds purchased a milk pasteurizing and bottling plant and have put it into containers on site, along with bottle washing and storing.
Milk comes from an Eketahuna dairy farm called Totara Hills, owned by Grant and Charlotte Bennett, with 400 cows, mostly A2 but not certified A2 milk. The Bennetts supply up to 8000 litres a week, collected in a chilled tanker trailer four times a week from the dairy. Fonterra takes the bulk of the milk production and allows the Bennetts to sell up to 20% independently.
Milk safety testing was initially set up to detect E.coli, listeria, brucellois etc. and is now done on a plate count system, milk sampled and tested by a laboratory in Wellington, to give an early warning of hygiene issues. Employees had a good understanding of dairy farm hygiene and have now been trained on the job in milk processing hygiene.
ECMM has between 15,000 and 18,000 one-litre glass bottles in circulation. Customers are attracted by the glass recycling aspect and then find the full- cream milk is much better than shop-bought. Some people with allergies also find themselves able to drink the ECMM milk.
Customers make a bottle deposit of $4 and then pay $3.80/litre for the milk. As long as the bottles are left out for collection, thereafter customers only pay for milk and any other foods ordered (meat, eggs or kombucha), and a delivery charge. In the Wellington region, delivery charges are $3.50 per delivery if the order is under $30 and free if over $30. For the rest of the country (outside the ECMM delivery area) charges are higher, on a sliding scale according to the size of the order.
Deliveries are made overnight Sunday night to Thursday night, so customers have the products on their doorsteps before 7am in the morning. Most leave out chilly bins as well as empty bottles.
In the future, the Olds will be working on sourcing printed bottles, extending bulk deliveries to offices and work premises, supplying retailers and introducing milk in kegs to cafes in their region.
Showdown Productions Ltd – Rural Delivery Series 15 2020