The fourth generation on a mixed farm in Richmond, Vikki and Micky Ker-Fox, are carving a niche for themselves with an upmarket butchery that uses hormone-free beef and mutton sourced on Vikki’s parents’ farms. And they’re introducing an innovative marketing plan to give them an edge. Robyn Joubert reports.
When a couple like Graham and Lynn Hope is very successful in their farming careers, it’s sometimes difficult for the next generation to find a niche for themselves on the farm. But their daughter Vikki and her husband Micky Ker-Fox have used the foundation of the family’s beef and lamb farm to create a new business – a butchery that delivers A-grade, hormone-free meat directly to the customer.
“My dad breeds Brahman cross Simmentaler and Charolais cattle and mom breeds Ile de France sheep,” says Vikki. “They have years of breeding expertise and produce high quality, hormone-free meat. We aim to capitalise on that by maturing the meat on the hook at our butchery and then delivering it straight from the farm onto the customer’s doorstep.”
Making meat work Lynne is a registered breeder and runs a flock of 200 breeding Ile de France ewes on Fairfields, the family’s 680ha cane and timber farm in Richmond. Graham runs a breeding herd of 600 cattle on a 2 250ha farm in Underberg. The cattle are naturally grazed on the mountains and brought down to a feedlot on the Richmond farm, where Vikki and Micky have set up their butchery.
Once in the feedlot, the cattle take 90 days to finish on a diet of farm-grown maize and cane tops. “Although we use organic fertiliser for the maize we still have to spray for various maize diseases using pesticides and herbicides, so we can’t call our meat organic. But we’re trying to get as close to organic as possible,” says Vikki. “We don’t give the cattle any growth hormones or additives and we don’t boost them to make them finish quicker. But the cattle are vaccinated when they’re young. If any cattle fall sick in the feedlot they’re pulled from the herd that supplies our butchery and given antibiotics.”
With years of breeding experience behind him, Graham only has to look at an animal to estimate its fat percentage and determine which animals will give a good dressing percentage.
“Graham knows the mix of breed, he knows what the animals are fed and which animals are well conformed and what characteristics determine good-quality meat. When it’s time to select animals for my butchery, I go with Graham and pick cattle and sheep out of the herd. We are literally selecting the cream of the crop,” says Micky. n preparation for the opening of his butchery, Hope Meat Supplies, Micky completed a butchery management course at Freddy Hirsch in Johannesburg. He opened the doors of the business in November 2007.
“An important point that we strive to convey to our customers is that we are an upmarket butchery. This is not a ‘backyard slag’,” says Micky. “There are a number of other requirements that have to be met in order to operate a butchery and sell meat to the public. The animal has to be slaughtered by a registered abattoir and the meat has to be inspected and graded by a recognised meat inspector.”
Micky slaughters about 25 sheep and 10 cattle a month. “As a butcher, pay the going rate for meat, buying on the hook, not the hoof. The only difference is we have complete traceability of the meat and guaranteed quality,” explains Micky.
Unit slaughter costs are R400 for beef and R50 for lamb. “We have a deal with our abattoir that allows us to keep the 5th quarter – offal, head and hide. Our transport costs are higher than those of most butchers who have the meat delivered to them, as we send our animals to the abattoir and collect them the following day,” explains Micky.
Micky sells the forequarters and processes the hindquarters himself, producing a range of products from basics such as hamburger patties, mince, sausages and boerewors to high-end products such as deboned lamb shoulder stuffed with lamb mince through to rump sosaties, biltong, porterhouse and fillet steak.
A few outlets in the area process the cheaper forequarter, but Micky aims at the high-end market and uses the hindquarter as it offers prime cuts. However, prime cuts make up only a small portion of the hindquarter. “One hindquarter weighing between 60kg and 70kg will yield only about 4kg to 6kg of rump, so I must also do a turnover on mince, sausage and boerewors. There is a lot of wastage on a carcass and those costs have to be carried by the butcher. For example, 25% of the carcass is bone and a lot of other waste products are sold well below cost.”
Micky says there is added value in cutting, deboning and packing meat. “The consumer is willing to pay more for these products, because most consumers are unable to do that for themselves. The butchery industry is very competitive and margins are low, so one has to turn over volume to make decent money,” he explains. Hope Meat Supplies offers a full butchery service. “We also stock free-range, hormone-free chicken from a trustworthy farmer in Richmond, who also offers complete traceability, and we personalise orders, vacuum pack, do lamb-on-a-spit and marinades,” he says. Crucial to the taste of Micky’s beef and lamb is the fact that he dry-matures it on the hook for a week, in a separate coldroom, before processing. “This makes a huge difference in terms of flavour and tenderness. We have learnt that customers prefer matured meat and it’s a good selling point,” he adds.
The butchery sells its meat at the Farmers’ Market and supplies The Roaming Steak bush restaurant, local sports clubs, estates and upmarket lodges. It also advertises in local newspapers and through pamphlet drops. “We’re targeting people such as housewives who don’t have access to farm-fresh products. The aim is to get them to put in a monthly meat order which would then be delivered to their home,” says Vikki. “Our business plan is to take quality A-grade meat and offer it straight to customers at competitive prices,” she says. “People are becoming more and more health-conscious and want to know what is going into their meat.”
Contact Hope Meat Supplies on (033) 212 2581 or e-mail [email protected] |fw
Geese on walkabout
A flock of about 600 geese have free rein at Fairfields and are handy to have around.“They work well because they clean the feedlot and keep the fly population down,” says Vikki Ker-Fox.While the geese are accustomed to being their own bosses, plans are afoot to bring them to hand.“We want to farm them better. The idea is to rotational graze them in the pastures after the sheep,” explains Vikki.The geeses’ chests are plucked every six weeks in the warmer months for down, which is sold to a local down and linen supplier.
The Roaming Steak
What could be better than tucking into a juicy, tender slab of steak, with an ice-cold beer on the side and an awesome view of the bush? Not much. Which is exactly why Durbanites Trevor Hawthorn, Jono Scheiby and Donovan Hubbart started offering that at their venture the Roaming Steak. It’s an innovative concept where the team set up a well-managed braai at whatever spectacular location has been decided on. “The idea behind the Roaming Steak is to get people into the bush or onto farmlands that have beautiful vistas,” says Trevor.
“We set up the restaurant at a site with a great view and put the coordinates on our website, which links to Google Map. People find their way to us and have an amazing meal in the bush.
”The Roaming Steak was started mainly to service quadbikers, 4×4 users and offroaders who were hungry after a morning of adventure. “We sometimes have 40 people arrive at a braai,” says Trevor. “People are now starting to drive up in their 4x4s and bringing the family along.”
The menu is simple but hits the spot. Trevor and Jono serve what they call “the perfect steak” on a wooden board. “We get our steak from Micky Ker-Fox at Hope Meat Supplies,” says Trevor. “His steak is hormone-free, tasty and very tender.
The Roaming Steak is all about the quality of the meat. When customers walk out they must drool when they think back about the meat.” Trevor has also introduced hamburgers made from Micky’s mince for the children. And for even more honest-to-goodness local flavour, Trevor serves ice-cold brewskies from Robson’s Brewery in Shongweni. Meets – or “meats” – are held every two weeks.
Contact Trevor on 083 658 6324 or visit www.theroamingsteak.co.za