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“...Animal welfare is a very important thing to us...."
When it comes to the meat that ends up on your dinner table, most people have no idea just where or how far away it comes from. Even a lot of butchers sourcing from large commercial abattoirs have little idea about the origins of their meat, says Stephen Tamplin, who has taken it upon himself to make a better option available to people in the Central West. Stephen, who runs his own small herd of Dorper Sheep, had become unhappy with how his animals were being processed and decided he could do better. So, he founded Tablelands Premier Meats, which is now the only all species licenced abattoir in the New South Wales and processes everything from quail to emus and rabbits to goats, sheep and cattle. From just a couple of staff, Tablelands now employs a team of 11 people including slaughterman, packers, butchers, shop assistants and cold transport drivers.
At Tableland Premier Meats the focus is on providing a local service and guaranteed traceability from paddock to plate, said Stephen, who also operates a retail butcher shop in the Summer Centre, selling products almost exclusively sourced from his own farm.
“The thing about our abattoir is that our meat is locally grown, locally processed and locally available,” he said.
“We are a very locally focused business. We have our own farms and grow our own stock for our own butchery. We also supply a lot of local restaurants, motels and cafes with product that has a traceability back to our place. We know where our meat is coming from, we know that it is local meat and that our road miles are very short.”
Stephen’s Canowindra farm now supplies his butchery with lamb, beef, goat, pork, turkey, duck and chicken, while he sources rabbit, quail, emu and other poultry from suppliers who share his concerns when it comes to animal welfare.
“Animal welfare is a very important thing to us and to a lot of the owners of animals we process and also to a lot of our customers,” said Stephen. “At our abattoir, the animals come in, they are rested, sheltered in their own undercover area and re-hydrated. We make sure the animals are not being stressed.”
Stephen’s own history working in the health sector has also made him conscious of providing meat products that are free of chemicals. “We don’t use any chemicals in our processing, so we have no chlorination, no fluoridation, no nothing in our water… we use an ultraviolet water-sterilizing high-pressure filtration which we then have independently micro biologically tested to make sure that it is fit for human use. So, we have zero carcass residues of any form of chemicals, which is good for those who've got allergy issues,” he said.
While Stephen is proud to supply his own local stock through his retail butchery, he is also keen to support other local farm businesses and provide customers with quality meat from a known source. “We are helping local farms to build their own local meat retail businesses. They bring their meat to us and we do the full processing packing and we have a refrigerated van service to supply to their distribution points in Sydney or locally — wherever they want it to go,” said Stephen.
“We can provide them the chemical-free service that they want and the transport to a wholesaler or restaurant in Sydney — it's a one-stop shop. They can deliver the animals to us and we look after the rest of the process.
“And we're not linked to any major chain, so we have complete control from the paddock right through to the plate — well, to the counter anyway. We’ll let people put meat on their plate in their own way!”
A butcher of difference
March 2019 Orange City Life Magazine
When Stephen Tamplin decides to do something, he doesn’t do it by halves. Not content with the way his dorper sheep were being processed, Stephen decided he could do better and has now found himself running a busy small abattoir and retail butcher shop supplying commercial restaurants in Orange, Sydney and elsewhere.
Stephen started working with animals from a young age and had his own farm in Tasmania at just 18. His career since has been diverse, including time with the Department of Agriculture in Tasmania and working as a health practitioner in New South Wales. A registered nurse, naturopath and acupuncturist, Stephen has picked up numerous qualifications along the way including a PhD in Health Science.
He bought his property near Canowindra in 2000, but it wasn’t until a few years later, after a stint working as the health services manager in Ivanhoe, that he became interested in Dorper Sheep.
“Spending some time further outback I got to see things like the Dorper Sheep and other types of animals that survived well in the dry stuff and so I bought Dorper Sheep back to my property out in Canowindra,” said Stephen, who had no intention of processing his own animals, until he found he just wasn’t happy with the service he was receiving.
“It was a consequence of a letter, because I complained about the service I got elsewhere — and I wasn't getting back what I was sending in on occasions, there were obviously errors on the return — and the response was: ‘If you don’t like it, you can take your business elsewhere.’ There being not a lot of other places to go, I decided that I can’t be the only one in this position, I'll set up a small facility, where we can do it properly,” he said.
“So, I went through the process, trained as a meat inspector and applied to Council to get a DA and I built my own abattoir at Canowindra. I started purely to do my own sheep and then others asked about it when they heard it was there. It was never intended to grow into what it is now, and it certainly has grown far beyond what I envisaged.”
Tableland Premier Meats is the only all species licenced abattoir in the state, said Stephen, processing everything from quail to emus and rabbits to goats, sheep and cattle.
The area they service extends from Dubbo down to Young, across to Bathurst, Crookwell and beyond.
“everything that is in our counter is processed in our abattoir
and 96 per cent comes from our farm”
“We also get turkeys from Shepparton, Geese from Hay, Emus from the Warrumbungles; we have birds and rabbits brought up from Braidwood and Bega… so they come from everywhere,” said Stephen.
“We've now got very regular clients bringing in their lambs, their pigs, their cattle, their chickens, their whatever and we have others who might just do their own domestic animals twice a year for their own kitchen freezers. There is no minimum: you can bring in one duck, one chicken, one cow, one sheep and not get penalised because you are not bringing in your 10 or 20.”
At first, Stephen was selling most of the meat from his property through the local famers’ markets, but at the end of 2017 he took another big step and moved into the butcher shop in Orange’s Summer Centre.
“We’re a butcher of difference; everything that is in our counter is processed in our abattoir and 96 per cent comes from our farm,” said Stephen.
And any meat not grown on his own farm is sourced from a small number of growers who share Stephen’s concerns when it comes to animal welfare.
“Animal welfare is a big issue and we've seen problems with abusers in the media from time to time… These days people want to know a bit more about the farm and the way the animals are raised,” said Stephen.
“We actually allow and invite people to come to the farm for visits and they can see what we do. We've run open days for the farm and the abattoir so people can see what it is and see the conditions under which the animals are kept and processed.”
With his background in health, Stephen is also proud to offer a chemical-free process at his abattoir. The complex even features a high-pressure water filtration system with ultraviolet sterilising, which means they do not have to chlorinate their water.
“I didn't want chemical loadings on our animals and carcass residues,” said Stephen. “Our meat being chlorine-free is reflected in the taste and the freshness of the meat, and the majority of our value-added products are gluten free as well — everything we do here is designed to be low allergy and low irritant.”
Tableland Premier Meats is continuing to grow, he said. As well as meat processing and retail sales through their butchery, a growing number of restaurants, bistros and cafes are seeking out their products.
“We are supplying to restaurants here and in Sydney, mainly pure meat product, but we are now going into value-added speciality foods,” he said.
“We have 28 different varieties of sausage. We have this patty machine now which will turn out 2000 and hour and we are supplying bulk patties to the burger trade as well as motels. We have inquiries at the moment for slabbed pork belly and chicken breasts for convenience cafe type food, so we are ramping up our production to meet that as well.
“And the beauty is, having our own refrigerated vehicles, we can organise our deliveries to suit what the customer needs and maintain that control from the point of slaughter right through the butchery, to the point of delivery.”
Stephen with Sean Murphy from ABC Landline
At the Orange Farmers Marke
Cut Through - the low-volume abattoir providing customised service
ABC Landline broadcast 15 .10.17
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A low-volume livestock producer started his own abattoir when he couldn’t obtain the standard of service he expected from existing providers. Now, his abattoir and meat processing works employs five people, and provides a custom service to similar minded farmers invested in the way their livestock is processed.
When chef Brendan Sheldrick gave up on his promising career to go quail farming, he knew there would be a keen market for ethically-produced, pasture-raised birds.
But the missing ingredient for his plan was an abattoir that would guarantee to slaughter and process low numbers of the delicate poultry.
As he developed his farm and grew a market, consistency of supply would be crucial, he said.
"It's probably the second most important thing we can do here on the farm, so the most important thing is to have a really beautiful tasting product with a great story and then you need to back it up with consistency," Mr Sheldrick said.
With his partner Leanne Crofts, he bought a 15-hectare hobby farm at Eugowra in the central west of New South Wales early this year because it was close to a boutique abattoir at Canowindra.
They were able to negotiate with the owner, Stephen Tamplin, to find the most humane way to dispatch their birds by gassing them and having them processed minimally with heads and feet on for maximum appeal to chefs.
"From day one we were involved in the process, I know he workshopped that process with his staff as well, it was a collective process to get a stress free product out of the abattoir," Mr Sheldrick said.
No order too small
Mr Tamplin bought Pride of Oak, a 30-hectare farm at Canowindra in 2002 to grow chemical-free livestock and poultry, but said he was forced into building his own abattoir because sale yards and slaughter houses were not interested in low volume producers.
"You take what you have to the market and in the saleyard you're not going to be given prime position, you're end of the line and you take a price penalty for that," Mr Tamplin said.
"So then we started getting some directly processed through butchers who had accounts at the abattoirs and we weren't always certain we were getting back what we should have been.
"So I had my own account opened at an abattoir and had questions again about some of the things that were coming back and some of the things that obviously weren't coming back
"When I made complaints I was told to take my business elsewhere if I could, and having nowhere to go, the only place to go was to build my own."
Mr Tamplin built his meatworks on farm and became a licensed meat inspector and meat safety officer to have greater control over his business, but he soon tapped into strong demand from other small farmers with the same experiences.
He now slaughters dozens of lambs, goats and pigs every week as well as hundreds of chickens and other poultry.
No order is too small.
"If someone brings in one of something we're quite happy to process that the same as if someone brought in many more," he said.
"I think the people who've got the one or two 'lawn mowers' or one or two worn-out egg layers still value what they've got, and we need to provide them a similar service without any penalty for only having a small number.
"If we're running two or 300 chickens through, which is a common event in a batch, then it's no problem to tack that one or two on as long as we can keep them separated and we know where they are going."
'A happy quail is a tasty quail'
Mr Sheldrick said the presentation of his quail was paramount to his fine dining clientele, but so was provenance. Every step of the process from hatch to dispatch had to be transparent.
"We're happy to let anybody involved in the food trade walk around and see what we do," he said. "There are no secrets here and you know having that transparency is important to the diner as well.
"It's something that the floor staff, the waiters, can talk about to the guests and involve them in the dining experience, to be not just more connected with the restaurant, but more connected with the food they're eating as well."
Before trying his hand at farming Mr Sheldrick worked at Sydney's Rockpool restaurant for 10 years and had been head chef at the high-profile Rosetta's restaurant in Melbourne's Crown Casino.
He knew there was already steady demand for quail in the fine dining sector but had identified a gap in the market for pasture-raised birds.
"I know these birds live in grass, that's their natural habitat so I thought why not give it a go and give these little birds a shot at living in their natural environment and see what sort of flavour and texture we could get out of the bird.
"What we've found is whilst we might not have the biggest bird on the market, the flesh is dark, the fat is really good, the birds are happy and shiny.
"You know they've got all their feathers and they're free to exhibit their natural behaviour … you can see them dust bathing, you can see them chasing each other, you can see them flying, you can see them getting blown up by the wind and sorting themselves out.
"So I think much like any other animal, a happy quail is a tasty quail."
ABC Landline interview Sean Murphy October 2017
Sean Murphy's crew from ABC Landline visited our farm and facility in October. They were completing a story on our abattoir - its unique grower / processor position. The crew spending 2 days on farm, filming our processing, smallgoods manufacturing, then coming to the Orange Farmers Market.
They interviewed our clients during their delivery and receival of stock, and also visited a client's quail breeding facility.
Thank you to our staff for their patience and cooperation to ensure everything went smoothly, while experiencing a taste of film industry.
This interview was broadcast on 15 October 2017 ABC Landline
The abattoir premises
Undercover holding pens
Science of a Success Western Magazine March 6 2017 Taylor Jurd
Delivering exceptional high-quality service and customer satisfaction is the aim of Tablelands Premier Meats, an on-farm fully licenced abattoir and meat processor near Canowindra in the Central West NSW Australia.
Owned by Stephen and Dorothy Tamplin, the dual-licence micro abattoir processes its own naturally grown animals, and provides service kills of sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, chickens, ducks and turkeys for other growers
“I want to eat clean, chemical-free, good, healthful meat so I grow and process my own animals in a chemical-free environment.”
As a fully-qualified and accredited NSW Food Authority Meat Safety Officer, Stephen is passionate about complying with food safety rules and regulations.
Born in England, he moved to Australia with his family when he was about two years-old in the 1950’s. He was 14 years of age when he first became involved in agriculture, growing calves and chickens.
Stephen was later employed with the Department of Agriculture in Tasmania, and has always been interested in providing chemical-free, clean food.
After establishing an on-farm butchery and out-sourcing the kills, Stephen decided to take greater control of his product. He redeveloped his premises, and in 2013 received his abattoir licence, which was how Tablelands Premier Meats began.
The abattoir is located on his property ‘Pride of Oak’, running a small herd of 200 dorpers, 30-40 boar goats, pigs, Angus x cattle and chickens, ducks and turkeys.
The abattoir has zero chemicals in its processing. “Meat shouldn’t have chemicals applied,” he said. “Once it’s been killed it should be able to age and its colour darkens naturally, pink meat after two weeks implies chemical treatment”.
Tablelands Premier Meats has clients from Victoria, throughout the Central West of NSW, the ACT, the Far West, the Hunter Valley region and South Coast, and the local area around Canowindra.
Not only is the company able to do private kills, but it provides services such as butchering, packing, and labelling the meat products.
“We are a processing point for a lot of retail, value- adding small growers,” Stephen said. “There are many meat retail farmers relying on our facility. We cater for the individual needs of the clients. There’s no limit to the cut types we do, it’s what the customer wants. “And we get good feedback about what we do. We sell on-farm, at local farmers markets and do home delivery within our local area.”
Tablelands Premier Meats regularly hosts information days where Stephen shares his experiences and basic information on how and why he set up a private meat processing facility to suit his own needs and markets.
He also provides consultancy to like-minded growers wanting to process their stock.
Fore more information Stephen can be contacted on 0447712370.
You can also visit the website at www.tablelandspremiermeats.com
Poultry processor gets plucky with white meat options
The Land JESSIE DAVIES 25 Feb 2016
Stephen Tamplin established Tablelands Premier Meats licensed abattoir with his wife Dorothy.
Finding a place to butcher your birds is one of the last steps for a poultry grower, but in NSW it can be the hardest.
After a decade of consolidation in both the poultry and meat processing industries, there are just a handful of abattoirs left that process poultry for small growers. Finding one nearby may be tricky. Tablelands Premier Meats in Canowindra is the only white meat processor in Central West NSW.
The abattoir was established by Stephen and Dorothy Tamplin three years ago to process their own red meat but it wasn’t long until they saw how desperate local poultry growers were for a processing service. Today, poultry growers from around the state (and beyond) flock to the family-owned on-farm abattoir.
Their business has allowed several people to develop their own.
“We have clients who bring birds from Hay, Condobolin, Braidwood and Bathurst. Some come from the middle of Victoria – a very long way indeed,” Mr Tamplin said. “Previously, poultry growers had the choice of sending their birds to Kempsey, Sydney or Bega – that’s it.” He said the disappearance of small abattoirs had taken place for a number of reasons.
“The sad fact is many of the smaller abattoirs which had white meat licences were bought up by bigger operators who then closed their smaller operations so they could focus on their larger facilities aimed at the export market,” Mr Tamplin said. He said as a rule large poultry growers had an integrated business model which didn’t allow for the processing birds for private clients.
“The larger poultry processors won’t do private kills due to biosecurity risks, product identification difficulties and efficiency reasons.” Mr Tamplin said the start-up and ongoing costs to run an abattoir were steep. Prior to opening the business he became a qualified meat inspector and accredited meat safety officer. “There’s nothing wrong with having very strict health regulation - I fully support it,” he said. “But there are audits on a regular basis plus annual licensing fees – it gets very expensive.”
Further, the administrative work required to service many small clients was time-consuming, Mr Tamplin explained. “It’s very important to run a schedule that limits downtime between different clients,” he said.
Where Australia’s largest poultry processing establishment kills and processes 33 million birds per year, or 630,000 birds a week, Tablelands Premier Meats does 2000 to 3000 a month. It employs up to six staff.
"We don't take up a lot of space, just 95 square metres in total when you combine the slaughter area, dressing and butchering, processing, weighing, chilling and packaging," he said. Unlike the major processors, the Tamplins don’t specify a minimum number of birds their clients must bring for slaughter.
They charge per bird and can process chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and emus. “It doesn’t matter to us how many birds you have, we just add them to our schedule,” he said. They can make value-added products at their request.
On their Canowindra property the Tamplins run cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and their own poultry including chickens, ducks and turkeys. Their own product is labelled under the Tablelands Premier Meats logo while stock slaughtered for other people is acknowledged as processed by the company. They sell their own produce at farmers markets in Blayney, Orange, Forbes and Gooloogong market and deliver to private clients. The small abattoir can process a chicken in 90 seconds.
To start plucking
From woe-to-go, a chicken is processed at Tablelands Premier Meats in just 90 seconds. The steps include:
• Assess the bird’s condition. All birds must be healthy to begin.
• Stun them using an electric stunner. This renders them senseless.
• Place the birds in a cone and make an incision in their necks.
• Scald the birds. This allows some of the fat to melt around the pin feathers making it easier to de-feather.
• De-feather the birds in a machine which softly tumbles them around.
• Place birds in an ice-bath to cool their body temperature.
• Remove the organs from the birds’ abdominal cavity.
• Inspect the hygiene of the batch by swabbing the birds and testing for E. coli and Salmonella bacteria.