Providing high quality farm to fork in the Waikato
The Andrews family have a value chain from farm to fork, comprising home- reared prime beef, lamb and goat meat, a micro-abattoir for slaughter and meat processing and two butcher’s shops, in Cambridge and Hamilton, with emphasis on local sourcing, circular economics and sustainability.
Wholly Cow does not offer e-commerce but trades on meat quality, reputation, word of mouth, and providing a community service.
Tom (a roading contractor) and Carrie (with diploma in fine arts) bought a 200ha farm in the hills behind Cambridge in 2007. They wanted to continue to be self-employed and independent.
Initially they bred cattle and lambs and sold progeny through conventional channels to export. After a short period, they decided to sell their own meat through farmers’ markets in Cambridge, Hamilton and Tauranga, using a local wholesale butcher and a chilled trailer.
Slaughtering initially was at the Ruakura abattoir, but when that was sold, their finished animals had to go to Auckland. That was when they decided to go into meat retailing and later set up their own micro-abattoir on the farm as they wanted to be in control of their own business and resources. Carrie says they had significant assistance from MPI when setting up food safety requirements.
Butchery: The Wholly Cow retail shop is located in the centre of Cambridge, in a premise and business bought by the family five years ago. Luke Andrews (19) is the store manager and it employs another full-time butcher and a part-timer on Wednesdays (when slaughtering is done weekly on the home farm).
All sausages, marinades and breadcrumbs are gluten-free, as Luke is coeliac.
Along with the Hamilton retail outlet, the business employs eight people, five of whom are butchers. Tom is the overall farm and transport manager, working long hours on livestock, slaughtering and deliveries.
Beef comes from finished Angus heifers, for the traditional flavour of grass-fed plus the smaller primal cuts. Lambs come from the Andrews’ family farm, along with Boer goat meat. The shop also sells free-range and organic chicken and Freedom Farm pork from Canterbury.
Farm and abattoir: The Andrews 200ha farm carries a variety of livestock species and classes, selected for complementary management, pasture allocation and parasite control. They have ewes for breeding lambs, and a Boer goat flock of around 300. Angus cows and finishing heifers are sourced from Waiotane Farm in Hicks Bay and Huruiki Farm at Matapouri (both closed Angus studs). They also bring in store lambs for finishing. They have also recently completed an RMP for venison.
Tom is responsible for farm management, along with once-a-week slaughtering and deliveries to the shops (with a chilled trailer) between 4-7am. Using his knowledge of meat and eating qualities, Tom weighs and selects the most suitable animals for slaughter – around 4-5 cattle and 25-30 sheep a week.
After meeting Neil Anderson of Northland and seeing his Oxville micro- abattoir, they decided to go down that route and have premises built and adjacent yards. It took about two years from concept to MPI-approved reality. They opened for business in February 2018. The emphasis is on hygiene, food safety and animal welfare.
The abattoir is steel-framed and sided with insulation. Each animal is brought in separately to the yards, shot and processed over about 35 minutes, followed by a washdown. No trucking and no waiting in the yards minimises animal stress. Lamb carcasses and beef quarters are hung for a week to 10 days before boning, to enhance eating qualities, particularly tenderness.
Wholly Cow is now a self-contained and resourced business that raises animals on pastures nourished by composting offal, wastewater, nutrients, paunch contents, heads and butchery waste. These are mixed with sawdust, horse manure and the actions of worms. The Andrews say there are no flies and no smell. Compost is in the stack for a 12-month cycle. During this time, compost piles reach temperatures of up to 60deg C. It is turned at three-monthly intervals with a front-end loader and ready for use after 12 months.
Edible offal is sold, beef bones are used for dog food, and tallow is made into skin care products, used to coat paper, to make candles and bird feeders, as well as dog treats and soap.
Bovine corium (the raw product used for manufacturing collagen) is extracted from hides for pharmaceutical uses. A type of waxed paper is made with tallow coating, to replace use of plastics wherever possible. Carrie also sews grocery bags from used t-shirts for the same reason.
The drivers of their business are; high quality, better not bigger, community service, local reputation, resourcefulness, animal welfare, low-waste, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free, and innovation. They have an estimated 2,000 families as customers.
Showdown Productions Ltd - Rural Delivery Series 15 2020