Leanne Wheaton and Gordon Shaw are on a mission to give consumers a taste of tradition – armed with a slowcooker, a portable coolroom, hundreds of recipes and passion for grass fed beef.
The couple have a 1600-hectare farm in the Wantagong Valley east of Holbrook with Mr Shaw’s siblings Jim and Cathy, and live on a smaller property at Jindera.
They run 500 Hereford breeders and several thousand Merino and cross bred sheep.
Mr Shaw, who has also worked as an economic development consultant, is a carbon trader and they plant up to 800 tress annually on their property.
Although the Shaw family has sold through traditional markets for half a century, the husband and wife team launched Grass Roots Beef in 2015 to value add to the family’s Holbrook farming enterprise.
“We had seen there was a trend towards grass fed beef and a lot of people were thinking that’s the way they wanted to eat their meat,” Ms Wheaton said.
“We’re lucky at Holbrook, we’ve got really good soil, good rainfall and our animals get fat on grass.”
They sell at Wodonga’s Junction Place Farmers Market, and also in Wagga.
It is surprising that people who come from the country don’t know about the whole animal and that’s what we’re trying to educate people about.Leanne Wheaton, Grass Roots Beef
Grass Roots Beef also has a growing online customer base, hungry for their tailored meat packs.
“Gordon and I both really like to cook, and I think that’s one of the things that attract people to our store,” she said.
“We always take our slowcooker and cook something up each week.
“Traditionally people might know about steaks and some of the popular roasts, but it’s great when you start talking to people about what to do with gravy beef or ox tail or what to do with osso bucco.
“It is surprising that people who come from the country don’t know about the whole animal and that’s what we’re trying to educate people about.”
Mr Shaw said grass fed beef presented differently to grain-fed cuts.
He said their meat had less marbling but was still tender, and juicy.
The couple said their focus on creating a low stress environment for their cattle was a key to great tasting meat.
“We bring half a dozen animals down here every couple of weeks,” Mr Shaw said at their home outside Jindera this week.
“Low stress handling is very important. They’re handled well up there (at Holbrook) but they don’t see a lot of people so when they come here we like to be closer to them so they become calmer.
“We like to have them here for three or four weeks and then take them to the abattoir. That makes them calmer and makes better meat.
“You’re not allowed to slaughter on farm if you’re selling commercially so that means that you’ve got to make them as quiet as possible before taking them to the abattoir.”
Cattle are sent to Gathercole’s in Wangaratta or Tallangatta Meat Processors at between 14 and 20 months, then butchered at Peters and Son at Lavington.
Their ideal arrangement would see all stock processed on farm.
“Now mobile butchers are very good, they come in semi-trailers and the whole back of their truck is a stainless steel butcher’s shop,” Ms Wheaton said.
“So, ideally, what we’d like is for the law to be changed so that a mobile butcher can come to the farm and process the animal completely on the farm.
“The animal would be a lot less stressed in that environment.
“If the law was changed and farmers could be certified in some way so they could process things at home then there’d be a lot more opportunities for people to really get that paddock-to-plate experience.”
Most of their stock is still sold at traditional markets, or AuctionPlus.