Livestock producers, especially those keen to pursue paddock-to-plate branding, are hoping to see meat processing facilities re-established on Kangaroo Island.
For more than 20 years all sale stock have been freighted across the 20 kilometre stretch of water to the mainland, adding to farmgate costs.
The last abattoir, located near Kingscote, closed in the late 1990s and was plagued by seasonal supply shortages.
Last year, the then Liberal Opposition made an election pledge to assess options for artisan meat processing on KI to give tourists a true local eating experience.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show there were nearly 600,000 sheep and 19,264 cattle on the island in 2014-15 and these numbers are believed to have grown since.
The Liberal state government, through PIRSA, has just released a discussion paper. It includes four options: a single or multi-species abattoir, a shared co-operative-style facility, mobile meat processing or using facilities of local butchers for value adding.
Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said the government would like to see a return to local livestock being processed on KI to ease the cost of meat for locals and take advantage of its reputation for premium quality.
But he said the government could not subsidise processing so was “putting the challenge” out to the local community to come up with a cost-effective solution.
“KI producers are seeking to build on the region’s reputation for quality and authenticity for its food products, while at the same time recognising the importance of ensuring public safety and product suitability through compliance with national food and meat safety standards,” Mr Whetstone said.
AgKI chairman Rick Morris hopes at least some of the island’s beef and lamb can be processed on KI and encourages AgKI members to contribute feedback.
He also hopes the state government will support a more detailed feasibility study and get behind any “entrepreneur with the energy to go with it”.
“Tourism is growing but agriculture is still the biggest industry and the biggest employer on the Island – we need to work together,” Mr Morris said.
Parndana sheep producer Jamie Heinrich supports Kangaroo Island having the ability to process its own livestock but says the nature of seasonal production would make any abattoir of scale difficult, with most lambs finished from August to January.
The Livestock SA board member says sheep numbers are on the rise with outstanding prices but the population is still less than prior to the wool price crash in the late 1980s, especially with the expansion of blue gum plantations.
“Most farmers are still going to be sending most of their stock off the island but it could be beneficial for those guys already branding to be able to market their product and say that it is completely local,” he said.
Mr Heinrich says it will come down to a business plan to determine the best option.
“A big (abattoir) would be better for producers but it would be harder for the processor to make it work and once you get to a critical size and start exporting, it is costly to have an export licence,” he said.
He expects a smaller plant could meet KI’s needs and while on-farm processing would be convenient for producers, sufficient cold storage for the carcases would need to be considered.
Mr Morris agrees a small, multi-species, service kill abattoir for sheep, cattle and pigs would assist local producers establishing paddock-to-plate brands.
“It could be processed here and delivered chilled to households on the mainland who can know the background of the animal,” he said.
“Today’s paddock to plate traceability and internet marketing can open up many opportunities.
“And rather than us breeding them and processing them over there (on the mainland), some of the meat could go straight to local hotels and restaurants.”
He says it costs him about $7 a head to get his sheep to markets on the mainland.
Written submissions to the discussion close on November 30 and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Details: pir.sa.gov.au/foodsafety