WESTERN Meat Packers Group (WMPG) is pushing full-steam ahead into some exciting projects, as well as celebrating a recent win at the 2018 IGA Perth Royal Show Branded Meat Awards.
The company entered its Margaret River Fresh branded striploin into the Show competition, winning the champion large producer in the beef category after earlier winning gold in the pasture fed 52-week grass-finished beef category.
Royal Agricultural Society of WA councillor-in-charge, Jo Pluske, said the competition fielded some excellent entries, with all eight receiving a medal, but only one gold was awarded.
“The outstanding Margaret River Fresh entry from Western Meat Packers Group had sensational taste and very good overall liking,” Dr Pluske said at the awards ceremony.
“While other entries were extremely tender, they lacked a little in taste and so did not score so highly.”
WMPG chief executive officer Andrew Fuda said the award reflected the company’s commitment to offering a premium beef product sourced from one of the world’s premium clean and green food bowls.
“While the Margaret River region has long been globally recognised for its fine wines, it is now also acknowledged for its fine food and our Margaret River Fresh branded beef is helping lead the way by giving Australian and overseas consumers a taste sensation second to none,” Mr Fuda said.
“In all of our export markets, including Japan, Korea, USA, Hong Kong and Singapore, there is strong demand for sustainably sourced, clean beef products and the Margaret River region is renowned for these qualities.”
The Margaret River Fresh trademark is registered with IP Australia by WMPG and is used exclusively to package the group’s premier products.
Cattle are selected after grazing on their natural pastures and then raised and fattened almost exclusively on pasture, before carrying the Margaret River Fresh brand after processing at the WMPG abattoir on 250 hectares in the Margaret River region.
WMPG said in all export markets including Japan, Korea, the US, Hong Kong and Singapore, there was high demand for sustainably sourced, clean products and that the Margaret River region was renowned for these qualities.
“We have built on this reputation and the growing consumer trends around sustainability, hormone-free and animal welfare by ensuring we produce in accordance with these expectations, there is no question that it is a major growth market for the industry,” Mr Fuda said.
Looking to further its reach into other export markets beyond established partnerships is part of WMPG’s current focus for growth.
Last year plans were announced for a major upgrade of the WMPG abattoir in the Margaret River region.
Investment in the expansion of the abattoir will enable the company to fully integrate its operations, adding an on-site boning capability in preparation for the accreditations that will enable the company to begin exporting to Chinese and Malaysian markets.
The company currently slaughters at Margaret River and transports carcasses to its boning facility in Perth, but having capacity to complete the entire process at one venue will be a game-changer.
“We have made substantial investments across our operations but the investment in the Margaret River plant is a strategic one,” Mr Fuda said.
“Currently we can access many notable international markets including Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States, markets which highly value the idyllic growing conditions of the Margaret River region where we both produce and source a good majority of our cattle.
“But the expansion will enable us to export offal and all grades of beef into China, as well as Malaysia, both of which require a fully-integrated facility combining slaughter, boning and cold store in the one location.
“The expansion will also enable us to lift our slaughter capacity from a consistent 400 head a day, five days a week, to at least 570 head a day five, six or seven days a week which, when added to a hot boning process for increasing numbers, will ensure we can consistently meet the demand from increasing our international market access.”
And while the prospect of gaining a foothold in Chinese and Malaysian markets is an exciting one for WMPG, the company will never lose its focus on the local domestic market.
“I think one of the key secrets to our success is our steadfast commitment to our domestic market, which is vitally important to our business,” Mr Fuda said.
“So, we take the same approach to our domestic market as we do with our export markets – providing quality beef products that consistently meets or exceed customer specifications.”
Jamie Warburton heads up the Margaret River facility and said the expansion plans would take the business forward.
“There are a lot of exciting things ahead for us in the next few years,” Mr Warburton said.
“The expansions we’re putting in place will not only mean exposure to markets like China and Malaysia, but also less wastage and more efficiency within our system.
Mr Warburton said expansion could also mean more jobs for the local area.
“Currently we employ about 60 staff here at the abattoir, which makes us one of the major employers in the Augusta/Margaret River shire,” he said.
“But with expansion comes the need for more staff in the future which is a good thing for the local community, as well as the other benefits for the company more broadly.”
WMPC, which has an annual turnover of more than $150 million, is 100 per cent owned by Rod Russell, who started the business in 1983 with his wife Shana.
It employs 450 people across its Osborne Park processing and packing headquarters, Margaret River abattoir and the Bibra Lake value-adding facility.