MICHELE and Phil Lally shook up the farming world with their Savannah Lamb product and now they have bold plans to shake up the meat processing sector as well.
The South Australian husband and wife duo, who won multiple awards for their branded lamb product, based in the Clare Valley, recently dispersed their flock to focus on a new venture: becoming manufacturers of customised micro-abattoir units.
Michele explained on-site abattoirs were an extension of their stress-free farming philosophy that guided Savannah Lamb to success.
"You can't get any more stress-free than if the animal is killed on the farm,” she said.
"It means there is no transport involved.”
Michele will be speaking more on this topic during next week's Farming Together forum held in Adelaide on June 6.
This week, she caught up with the Rural Weekly to explain why she believes micro-abattoir will create better returns at the farm gate.
Savannah Lamb, which started in 2006 and progressed into having a strong focus on chemical-free, eco- and ethically-focussed practises, began after the couple bought their farm through succession.
"We were in a position where we would either have to get bigger or get out,” she said.
"So branding our product and selling it direct to customers was our strategy to buy our farm through succession.
"We noticed a huge difference between the growth rate and happiness of stock that had been treated respectfully. Stress-free animals produce the best meat because of the low acid levels in their muscles at the time of processing.”
Extra care with their herd meant motorbikes and dogs were not needed during mustering time - instead, "lead sheep” would guide the flock into fresh paddocks.
Although they had much success, even winning a Royal Sydney Fine Food Show Open Branded Lamb competition, the couple have now taken a step back from the business, leasing the farm to a neighbour, to focus on their micro-abattoirs.
"The new initiative is a response to demand from other livestock farmers keen to develop their own branded meat products but who are unable to secure space at their local abattoirs which can sometimes be up to four hours' drive away,” she said.
"From operating our own, micro-abattoir, we have identified three groups who have so far show some interest in the plug-and-play-type design. The small-scale farmers looking to process small consignments at an existing facility, remote communities hoping to secure affordable local meat for their region rather than relying on high-cost low-quality meat deliveries, and, lastly, groups of farmers looking to collaborate to install a regional micro-abattoir so they can own their supply chain with more confidence.”
The abattoirs are built similar to shipping containers and expand and recline as necessary, she said.
"So for small animals like chickens you may only need a small unit, but for water buffalo, or bullocks, or camels they will need to be much larger,” she said.
Leasing their farm has also meant the small family, which includes three-year-old Zara, can take a well-earned break. Soon they will all head to France on study tour of French meat processing practices.
When asked where the couple's inspiration came from, Michele joked it was from long conversations over wine.
"Phil is a winemaker by trade and we have our own wine vineyard, so most of our ideas came about when drinking our shiraz,” she said.
Visit www.farmingtogether.com.au for more information.
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