The Fonterra board needs real farmers with their own skin in the game, says would-be director John Nicholls.
The company runs tours to show farmers how much effort goes into turning a big, beautiful bull into a tasty Big Mac.
Reporter Peter Burke joined a recent tour in Taranaki where NZ’s largest McDonald’s restaurant tops the burger sales stakes.
Farmers on this tour are mostly from the lower North Island, Manawatu and Wairarapa and a few from Waikato.
The last many see of their beef animals, be they bulls or culled cows, is their tails disappearing into a stock truck and heading down the driveway. When they stop for a snack at McDonald’s do they think they may be eating their own animals? Probably not.
The group meets at ANZCO’s processing plant, near Eltham, and gets to see the animals being processed on the chain at the works. Many have never seen this before, including Jason Griffin of Beef + Lamb NZ. “For some it will be a new experience and I’ve only seen it from a viewing platform, but never right down close to the chain,” he told Rural News.
“Seeing all the people involved and the skills they have is impressive. You don’t realise that until you come in and do this.”
Andy Philipps, a Wairarapa sheep and beef and Texel stud farmer, agrees. Onfarm he spends a lot of time making sure he supplies good product to the works.
“I came on the trip because I wanted to know what happens beyond the farm gate, not only as far as the killing process but looking at markets and what’s coming ahead of us,” Philipps said.
“It was very impressive to see what an efficient job the meat processing company is doing and it’s great that it’s ending up as a quality grass fed burger, not just as a commodity product,” he says.
The next stop for the farmers is ANZCO’s beef pattie operation up the road at Waitara. This is where the beef suddenly emerges out of a machine as mincemeat, is transferred to another one and in a matter of minutes thousands of meat patties appear, are made to the international standard McDonald’s requires. This plant produces up to half a million patties a day, seven days a week.
Jacques Jordan, who supervises this operation, says all the beef is grass fed, which means the meat is lean and they use a mixture of chilled and frozen product to do this.
“Mostly we use chilled meat and generally the ratio is 70% chilled to 30% frozen,” he explains.
As the patties emerge, perfectly cut to size and weight, they are instantly frozen and packed and ready to head to a McDonald’s near you.