Article by: Hari Yellina
Speckle Park beef is being sold to a group of loyal, regular customers by two butchers with a total 75 years of expertise in the business. Rob Ashton, a 45-year veteran butcher, knows a thing or two about cattle and carcasses. Robert Constable is in the same boat, having begun his apprenticeship 30 years ago and since then managed and owned his own retail butcher shops in the Hunter Valley. Mr. Ashton, who owns two butcher shops and an abattoir, has been particularly thrilled with Speckle Park steers’ performance. He claimed he would continue to seek out Speckle Park stock because of its great dressing percentage, muscle, meat colour, and meat flavour.
When Mr. Ashton was conducting some contract slaughtering for the Dorroughby Speckle Park stud in Westbrook, he came upon Speckle Parks. He said he could prepare a few head of these cattle on a daily basis for his butcher shops in Pittsworth and Dalby, but that he would like supply to increase in the future. Mr Ashton has been able to obtain Speckle Park carcasses that dress out at around 59 percent. He said that this was somewhat better than standard Angus and Hereford carcasses and comparable to Limousin breeds. “I prefer the British Bred-type of cattle and the Speckle Park performance is very similar to Angus,” he said. “It is early maturing, so you can get good weight gain and an excellent carcase at an earlier age.”
Mr Ashton processes about 50-head of cattle and 120 lambs per week at his Millmerran abattoir – mostly for his butcher shop, as well as for several other butcher shops and on private contracts with producers. He said each cattle breed had its advantages and disadvantages, but the Speckle Park animals more than held their own against other breeds and he would like to get his hands on more of them. “In terms of saleability, the meat is really nice in terms of appearance, texture, colour, and taste,” he remarked. “It has a lot of muscle and looks great in butcher shops. Additionally, it has a healthy amount of intramuscular fat, as well as rump and rib fat. From our standpoint as a processor, yield is exceptional,” says the processor.
Given the price of cattle in the saleyards, Mr Ashton said he was under a lot of stress. However, he claimed that his retail clients were well aware of the cost of stock and that there was minimal opposition from them. “Prices are high, but our consumers appear to be willing to pay for the high-quality meat we provide,” he said. “We are in a rural area, so people are aware that we are under pressure and have a strong grasp of our working conditions.”Every week, I believe that prices at the saleyards have peaked, and then they continue to rise. “Saleyards account for around 70% of our cattle therefore it has a significant impact on us.”
Mr Constable, the owner of Roberts Meats in Singleton Square, is Australia’s sole butcher who specialises in Speckle Park beef, selling roughly 1200 kg each week on average. Every two weeks, he gets roughly seven carcasses processed, most of which come from his father Mark Constable’s Fredericton property “Ersyldene.”
The family has been selling Speckle Park beef for more than a decade and owns a commercial herd as well as the Ersyldene Speckle Park stud. Customers actively seek out Speckle Park for its taste, texture, and colour, according to Mr Constable, who now uses it exclusively for his retail beef offers. He claimed the family’s Speckle Park bulls were used over Hereford/Angus-cross cows, and he procured additional young stock from various Speckle Park producers to assure a year-round supply. “In the past, we’ve had Limousin and Charolais cattle, but we’ve discovered that the Speckle Park has a good flat bone, so you get a lot greater meat yield,” Mr Constable explained. “We have such a niche business being able to do Speckle Park all year round by being vertically integrated from the farm through the processor at Alexander Downs and on to the retail shelf.” Mr Constable labels his beef as Speckle Park in the butcher shops and says customers now actively seek it out.