Visiting Sunshine Coast beef producer Maleny Black Angus Beef in the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland…
There is nothing quite like the taste of grass fed beef. The only problem is, what is often passed off as grass fed, isn’t really, and the point of difference to observe here, is that what you really should be asking for is grass fed AND grass finished beef.
Let me explain. Most of our beef these days is grain fed, or in the least grain finished. So while they (butchers /supermarkets/marketers/branding) might loosely allude to grass feeding, by the time the beef actually reaches your plate, it may have been grass fed once, in its distance past, but realistically it has been a long time since that cow would have seen the grass.
The demerits of grain feeding are well documented, and I have been on my soapbox several times, so if you would like to read more as to why, please click here.
So, when I am talking about ‘there being nothing quite like the taste of grass fed beef’, I am talking about grass fed AND grass finished.
There are a few fabulous meat producers farming their cattle in exactly this way on the Sunshine Coast and one in particular, is one I recently visited – Maleny Black Angus Beef.
Mark and Sue Menkens are the wonderful individuals that have taken pride in making grass fed grass finished beef more accessible to the consumer.
From the magical vantage point of their verandah, at their current home in Bellthorpe, on the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland, just 20 minutes away from Maleny, it isn’t hard to work out what draws them to the land, or this land in particular. The views across their property are just breathtaking.
Mark, a helicopter pilot for 20 years, Sue, a salesperson in the optical and real estate industries forever, met and married 11 years ago, within nine months of meeting each other – true love. They moved to Maleny two years into their marriage and farming has been their passion ever since. They now have a little helper Jesse, a gorgeous little girl, who while she is maybe yet to develop a passion for farming, she is certainly enjoying the spoils in the way of healthy tasty beef and the freedom of country life.
Sue and Mark are passionate about good healthy food. With cattle farming in Mark’s blood – seven generations of Mark’s family were either butchers or involved in cattle farming – it seemed a natural move.
Ultimately their dream was to provide the more flavoursome grass fed beef to many, many households from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast and most suburbs in between. They wanted to make it easier for families to access good healthy meat, at an affordable price, direct from the local farmer rather than the multinational supermarkets and to help people reconnect with real food. Their passion for good healthy food also extends to where the food actually comes from; the ethical farming practices, the value on the lives of the animals themselves, as well as the holistic lifestyle associated with all of that.
It is hard to believe it all started a friend’s BBQ. Faced with a very average tasting steak, Sue decided to introduce family, friends and soon to become friends, to their premium beef that they had the privilege of eating over the previous five years and which was far superior in taste compared to the meat from the usual shopping outlets.
In that, there was a lot of preparation, so Sue spent over 6 months researching and then forming their website and finally launched Maleny Black Angus Beef at the Maleny Real Food Festival in September 2015.
Their breed of choice is Black Angus cattle. Black Angus are a premium meat breed which were chosen due to their temperament and good mothering skills, resulting in calves that quickly, yet naturally put on bulk. All up, they have 6 bulls, 250 breeders (cows), 80 steers (they end up on the BBQ), 70 heifers (never been pregnant), a whole swag of weaners on the various properties and a changing number of calves. They keep their bulls with ‘the girls’ all year round so new calves are hitting the ground (softly) daily, which also means a continuing supply beef throughout the year. They also supplement their beef stocks by producing free range piggies for ham and bacon, and black faced Suffolk lambs for meat as well. Consequently Mark and Sue also lease an additional nine properties, grazing their bovine family on over 2,000 acres – you need a lot of room for this much cattle!
Their premium point of difference is that ALL of their Black Angus beauties are grass fed and grass finished enjoying a diet of fresh grass, roaming free, as nature intended. No grain. They believe (correctly) cattle and sheep where not created to eat grain – therefore it is grass, and grass only. Repeat… Grass only.
They do get the odd treat in the way of mineral and molasses, and let me tell you that they come running from miles to enjoy these treats. Mark says, it is to keep them friendly, and make it easier, when it comes time for mustering, and it does, but they obviously enjoy it. I got quite a giggle at ‘the girls’ *she says fondly* with their faces splattered with molasses in their eagerness to get in first. Their placid natures evident by the way I could walk in amongst them – without getting trampled – while they scrambled into get their share of the hay and treats. Beautiful creatures.
But there is a purpose to all of this, so come ‘D Day’ (which is fortnightly), Mark transports the steers to the abattoir himself, at which point the carcass is dry aged for 12 days, then butchered and cryovaced into meal sized packs to fulfill family orders. And if you think that all sounds pretty cruisy, I don’t envy the 3:30am start on delivery days when Sue and Mark travel to Esk to collect the meat and then deliver each package personally to their customers.