PADDOCK to plate is a term heard a lot these days, but hidden away in the hills of Yarra Glen sits a farming business that is literally taking what you see in the paddock, and preparing it ready for the plate.
Yarra Valley Custom Meats opened three years ago under the guidance of Melissa White, who opened the butcher store on her parents’ 550 acre farm.
Processing around five steers each week, the shop also sells between five and six spring lambs, along with pork cuts and suckling pigs ready for the spit.
What makes Yarra Valley Custom Meats different to the other paddock to plate operations is that the animals grazing out the front of the store are the same ones that end up for sale – there is no middle man.
Starting out supplying pork to local restaurants – Melissa soon realised customers were looking for a genuine farm experience when it came to buying meat.
“More and more, people want to know where their meat comes from – and how it was handled,” she said.
“When they come here, they need no convincing; the beautiful landscape is dotted with cheeky lambs running away from their mums, while contented cattle graze.
“The whole experience for many city travellers and their children is one in awe at the countryside.”
Melissa is able to purchase almost all of the stock bred by her parents – Michelle and Brian – on the farm; assessing each animal for the quality she knows is important for a good final product.
Running a mix of up to 400 Angus, Hereford, Santa Gertrudis and Charolais cross cattle, the operation has expanded to now include Large White and Saddleback Berkshire cross pigs, free range Isa Brown chickens and a mix of Dorper and Suffolk sheep.
More recently, a small herd of Boer goats was purchased to add to the line-up of meat sold at the store.
Twice each week, Melissa selects which animals will be taken to the abattoir – cattle and sheep to one, pigs to another.
Cows are butchered at a dress weight of between 250 – 350 kilos, with sheep turned off at around 22 kilos.
Pigs are sold in cuts, or often as sucklings for the spit.
From the abattoir, the carcasses are brought back to Yarra Valley Meats, where the team of butchers then begin the process of cutting, packing and creating the gourmet line of sausages.
“We had to jump through a lot of hoops to get the store up and running,” Melissa said.
“There is a lot more involved than just bringing home the meat – but it has definitely been worth all the effort.”
The White family have owned the property where Yarra Valley Custom Meats is based – just a few kilometres out of Yarra Glen – for more than 50 years.
Long term, Melissa hopes to open a bigger butcher store – but still on-farm; that’s one thing that she has no plans on changing.
If you would like more information, visit the website at http://www.yarravalleycustommeats.com.au/.