Community butchers are under increasing pressure to source quality beef as a shortage at local saleyards starts to bite.
While farmers across NSW are battling the drought at the front line, butchers who supply local meat to their customers are also feeling the pinch. They’re in a Catch-22 situation.
There are more buyers vying for quality cattle, which means they have to pay higher prices at the yards to secure their beef. But at the same time, they can’t keep passing on the extra cost to customers because it will simply drive them elsewhere.
The Mercury spoke to butchers across the city who are determined to wear price hikes to keep more money in their customer’s pocket.
If the supply isn’t there the prices will go up and you can’t keep increasing the price because it gets to the point where people can’t afford the product,Third generation butcher Tim Brown, of Browns Butchery.
“We’ve been trying to cut back on other areas so we can keep our prices as low as we can and maintain the quality.”
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East Maitland butcher Tom Myhill expects quality cattle will be hard to source until well into spring.
The yards are short on numbers and there’s not going to be many good ones around that are finished. Even if it rains it takes a while to finish cattle, it doesn’t happen overnight,Mr Myhill said.
It’s even tougher for niche butcher, and fifth-generation farmer, David Carter, of Morpeth Butchery – home of Hunter Natural, who specialises in quality grass-fed beef. He normally supplies the shop with his own beef but the drought has forced him to start sourcing it elsewhere.
Take a look at his farm
Mr Carter has been forced to sell some of his herd, which would have ended up in the shop, and is hand feeding the rest to help them survive the drought.
The customer wants grass fed, they want it from the farm, and Cowra are the only ones who can guarantee that it is grass fed – the drought hasn’t been as bad there,Mr Carter said.
With the price of feed on the rise, it is a costly venture.
Morpeth Butchery and Browns Butchery, which has a store in Thornton and a new shop opening today at Clarence Town, are supporting the Buy A Bale campaign.
The stores have Buy A Bale donation tins, and Browns Butchery has its own online donation page.
“We need to support the people who grow the product that we sell. It’s an opportunity for us to give a bit back to them,” Mr Brown said.