Thoughts from the butcher’s shop

Craig Shepherd, of Tinonee Family Butchery

Craig Shepherd, of Tinonee Family Butchery

The local butcher can be a place to catch up on news as well as choose something nice for dinner.

Craig Shepherd, who runs the Tinonee Family Butchery, can also give you some cooking tips, provide a ready-to-cook meal, and a few tips on how the economy is travelling.

Craig was living on a farm in Windsor but five years ago he and his partner Allison decided to make the move to the Manning.

‘I started out with a mobile business. I’d go to a property, kill the animal, hang it in my portable cool room then go back with my truck that was kitted out as a full butcher shop and butcher the meat on site. It was a great idea, still is, but the roads were so bad that I had to give it away. In one month I had $3,800 worth of damage to my refrigerated truck due to the local road conditions.’

So when the Tinonee shop became available he and Allison decided to give it a go and after 14 months they have made quite a name for themselves.

‘I know meat, I’ve grown up on farms and we run cattle and pigs on our property at Dean’s Creek. My dad helps with the property and my thirteen year old son helps him as he helped me with the mobile butcher as well. My other two sons are younger so not sure what they might do.’

Craig points out that if they want to be a butcher they’ll need capital.

THE RISING COST OF MEAT

‘The cost of meat has sky rocketed because of the export market. I’ve got a regular body of beef hanging in the back that cost $1,500 before it was butchered and there’s a lot of waste. A whole lamb before butchering will cost about $160 to $180 each. In China a body of Wagyu beef would cost around $19,000!’

At the mention of the Chinese export trade, Craig’s cheerful face turns grim.

‘My old boss said the day we pay over a dollar a kilo for lamb, we’re done. I’m paying round $7.80 a kilo to get it into the shop whole. Australia has become nothing but a food farm for China and we’re getting nothing back. They’ve got it sewn up and soon won’t need us and where will we be then? They’ve got here their own ports, big cattle properties, abattoirs, half a dozen of our best dairy farms, and now they’ve apparently got people like Gerry Harvey and Gina Rinehart building plants to manufacture their milk powder. All for China’s growing, cashed up population. These foreign companies pay little if any tax, and nothing stays in Australia. If this TPP goes through they’ll be bringing in their own workers. I don’t understand why the government allows it. Why not lease the land to them? No one is joining all the dots.’

While Canberra might not agree with his sentiments, you can’t disagree over meat with Craig. He is dedicated to delivering the best quality meat he can find.

‘If cattle are going down in weight or are stressed, the meat will be tough. I go down to the sale yards at Townhead Sunday nights when the cattle come in and I watch them for a couple of hours and I can pick the good ones to buy Monday morning. I sell my free range pigs at the same time.’

Craig loves to cook and has value added by offering ready-to-go meals and has installed a smoker to produce his own small goods.

‘We buy buffalo from a property in Lakes Way and I’m planning to sell their cheese when I have approval.’

He also provides some of the meat for one of our favourite TV cooking shows.

AWARD WINNING APPRENTICE

Craig is ably assisted by Amy Anderson who just won the State Apprentice of the Year. Amy, from Burrell Creek, is a 33 year old mother of two, and does all the breakdown of the carcasses and the prep work.

‘It’s a fantastic career for a girl. We have a farm and I love the paddock to plate thing watching my meat go through the whole process. As a butcher I work smarter not harder, as lifting those heavy sides of beef can be an effort. So I butcher what I can in the cool room then take it in pieces into the shop. I could do meat inspection, work in retail or wholesale. And Craig is great to work with!’

Craig offers a final piece of free advice.

‘I’m a farmer as well as a retailer. I know farmers take a hit when prices dip, I run cattle too. I bought cattle when they were cheap but by the time it was time to sell them I bought a bull instead and started breeding. But if we don’t start looking after ourselves locally and nationally, we’ll be done. You can’t eat coal and gas.’

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