‘There’s a mob of weaners (calves just off their mums) running amok in the house yard – firstly to let them eat the grass instead of firing up the lawn mower, and secondly to get them used to us so they remain stress-free and easy to manage well into their adulthood (all their lives actually). It kind of nice to have a mob of bovine supervisors getting involved with anything we do outside and making sure we do all our jobs correctly, although we have to dodge the cow pats and I don’t think the chooks appreciate them invading their territory.’
This is what life should be like for all animals who are destined for our plates, quite the opposite from how a lot of our poor meat animals are treated. The first time I read about factory farming and saw the images, I cried. Great big tears rolled down my face. I’m not going to go into it here, I think it’s up to you to research it if you want to find out what moved me to tears. You can read about pork production here (Google the different terms because it sounds ok until you actually see what they’re referring to), beef feed-lots here and chicken production here.
I didn’t instantly turn vegetarian. That doesn’t fit with my lifestyle or my eating beliefs (or Will’s) but as I dried my eyes, I vowed to do what I could to never support such an awful industry ever again.
Since then, I’ve been doing all I can to find meat from happy animals because I believe that happy animals produce healthy meat. You may think that’s a load of hogwash but I can’t see that eating meat from a stressed out, malnourished animal pumped up with hormones and antibiotics is going to provide you with the same benefits as meat from a well cared for, well-fed (with a natural diet) animal that lived a happy life until it became my dinner.
There’s a lot of trust involved in the food system. When I buy something that is labelled free-range or organic, a lot of the time all I can do is trust that the source is honest (although I’m doing more to find out for sure).
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that just a few weeks after starting my new crusade I came across Bonnie Beef at the Noosa Farmers markets. I was looking for a cut of beef to make Mexican shredded beef the following week and I got chatting to Kym. She wasn’t just a stall holder she was the farmer. The farmer who could tell me all about the beast from who his parents were to the age he died and even his temperament. I went home, excited to be honouring him with a delicious meal.
A few weeks later, one gloomy Sunday afternoon Kym arrived at my door to deliver my first Bonnie Beef order. After a chat about how great KitchenAid mixmasters are she was on her way to make the next delivery.
Bonnie Beef is a true family business. Kym’s parents Bev and Gordon, bought their farm about 8 years ago with the intention of retiring. Gordon’s culinary experience with Kobi Wagyu in Japan planted the seed of an idea to try out breeding wagyu. Since climbing the steep learning curve, they never looked back
‘We were determined from the very beginning that we would grow and process our animals in the best and most humane way possible. It is a bonus that low-stress animals also produce superior beef!’
Kym and her husband Geoffrey have both got farming in their blood and made the move from inner-city Brisbane to the farm back in 2011 and now have a lease on a five acre property where they’re building their sustainable passive solar house. Their goals are inspiring with hopes to create a Polyface farm in mini form (click on the link to learn more about Polyface farms).
If you thought that would keep them busy enough you were wrong because they also have another smaller farm where they hope to have chooks, ducks (for eggs), possibly a lime orchard and some other exciting, Sunshine Coast specific crops.
Kym and her husband leave her mum and dad up to most of the production and breeding side of Bonnie Beef, helping out where needed of course and they run the processing and marketing side. Because meat for human consumption must be killed in a licenced abattoir, they can’t kill their own animals but they personally transport them to the abattoir, make sure they’re first on the line and work with the butcher to break down the meat and package it up ready to be sold and then they sell it or deliver it. You really don’t get much more personal service than these guys.
Sadly, recently they’ve been disappointed with what Kym calls ‘Farmer’s’ markets being more about on-selling and wholesalers and less about actual farmers selling their produce so they’re looking for a way to improve their online sales because they just can’t compete in that environment.
I should re-write this but what Kym said to me is just so honest and so in line with everything I’m trying to achieve I’ll let her say it herself:
‘We love packing up our own beef, or even that of our neighbours, knowing that each animal has had a good life and as quick an end as we can mange under the current regulatory system, and that we are putting our product into the hands of customers who appreciate what we are trying to achieve. We love the fact that we base our business on integrity and honesty – that’s very important to us. We are more than willing to share our failures and our successes with our customers as they are such an important part of our business (and by extension – our lives).’
In my mind, you don’t get much better than that. I so appreciate what they’re trying to achieve and that’s why I wanted to tell you all about them. This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m not being paid, I just wanted to share such a wonderful story with you.
You can read more about Bonnie Beef, how they operate, which cattle breeds they produce and everyday farm life and place an order (for delivery in Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast) on the Bonnie Beef website.
I hope you found this as interesting as I did. This isn’t me on a soap box as much as it might sound that way. I don’t claim to know it all but I am interested and I want to share my thoughts with whoever might want to listen.
Images courtesy of Bonnie Beef.