Steak of Origin Champion 2016

May 2017

Brendon and Hayley Robinson’s Angus X steak was deemed to be the most tender and tasty in the country by a line-up of top New Zealand chefs in the 2016 Steak of Origin competition.

Brendon and Hayley Robinson’s Angus X steak was deemed to be the most tender and tasty in the country by a line-up of top New Zealand chefs in the 2016 Steak of Origin competition. 

The Steak of Origin is run by Beef and Lamb NZ and aims to find the producer of the best sirloin steak New Zealand.  It is open to beef farmers, retailers, wholesalers and the foodservice industry. In 2016 the competition was in its 14th year.  It originated from a national carcass competition but nowadays includes a taste component. 

All entries are initially assessed by Carne Technologies in Cambridge for tenderness, pH and marbling, and percentage cooking loss. The tenderest steaks make the semi-final and are cooked and tasted by a panel of judges in Auckland.  The finalists are tasted in Feilding by top chefs and celebrities. 

Brendon was born at Kaponga and grew up on his family’s 165-cow dairy farm. The home farm is now leased to his brother and Brendon and his wife Hayley lease the run off at Normanby. Although Brendon was raised on the family dairy farm these days he does shift work at Kapuni.   Hayley works for an accountancy practice. They have two kids. 

Brendon describes himself as a hobby farmer. They were first time entrants in the competition. They previously grazed heifers on the run off block but with the dairy downturn turned their attention to beef stock. 

The block is slightly over 23ha. When they first leased the land they started rearing 4 day old calves but with Hayley and Brendon both working full time, that got a bit tough to manage. Dairy herd grazing was equally tough to juggle with fulltime work commitments.

The couple tried growing maize silage but ended up figuring they were just making other people money. 

The system they have now is quite simple. They buy in weaners and take them through to a finishing weight. The Robinsons buy in all year round, sourcing animals from wherever they can get them.   

Brendon says he’ll buy at auctions, on trademe, or at the saleyards. He says he is price driven. He says the cost of the lease on the land, the silage making, regrassing etc., means he’ll take any stock for sale as long as the price is right. 

They get extremely good liveweight gain. One recent line of autumn born steers were bought in a 100kg and sold 12 months later at 410kg. 

They have only carried 80 calves through this summer because of the dry conditions, but the Robinsons would like to carry more when feed allows.  The calves aren’t drenched unless they need it. 

Brendon says healthy animals don’t need chemicals poured down their throats.

“If my stock are happy, then I’m happy. If an animal is sick or we notice they are a bit under the weather, we treat them.” 

Brendon says his key to stock health is to make sure the animals are well fed. He has experimented with forages and started growing plantain last year, which turned out to be a good option. 

The small scale of their business means they can look after their animals better – and maintain good pasture quality. 

This was the first time they’d entered the SoO awards. Brendon modestly says they have little idea how we made it to the semi-final let alone the grand final. 

He says he thinks the fact that stock are happy and well fed is critical. Brendon admits to really loving his animals. He reckons when the animals go off to the processor he’s sad to see them go. But he says they’ve been on the farm for 18 to 20 months, they’ve had a very good life with good feed and plenty of care and attention. He reckons the award is proof that he must be doing something right.

Mark Wormald has had the Fridge Butchery in New Plymouth for 6 years. He’s focused on sourcing top quality local meat. He makes a lot of his own small good – bacons, hams dried meats. He hand makes sausages and patties. He’s extremely careful about what goes into those products and he doesn’t like pre-mixes. 

He says he started talking to Brendon shortly after the Steak of Origin award and decided to start selling their beef through his business. He says it is early days (he took delivery of the first of Brendon’s animals in late October 2016) but certainly there’s demand from customers “who want to know where their meat comes from”.