For Courtney Bayliss at Gingin Premium Meats, the path from paddock to plate is shorter than most. The supply chain from her family farm to the Gingin butcher shop she bought in partnership with her father, Gingin Shire President Wayne Fewster, makes for beef with extremely low food miles and total traceability. However, as she explains, it was more of an intuitive decision than a marketing strategy.
“It’s not something we consciously decided, to me it just makes sense. It’s a win for everyone. We get to sell a product that we know is premium because it’s sourced from our friends, neighbours and fellow local farming families who we trust one hundred percent.” she says.
Courtney’s role as manager of the butcher shop sees her out in the paddock selecting animals for specific customers as well as for the shop – and it’s the part of her job she is most passionate about, combining her science background with a knack for noticing quality.
“I’ll give Dad a ring first and see what he’s got ready in the paddock. Otherwise I source from other farmers nearby in Gingin. If the customer wants grass fed or grain fed we’re always completely transparent. We try to find them what they want,” says Courtney. “Customers can choose how long the carcass is hung for and specify the cuts they want. We also process for a lot of local farmers who want to enjoy their home-grown meat.”
Wayne, who recently sold the original family farm in Beermullah to downsize to a more convenient property not far from the Gingin townsite, is a strong advocate for grass-fed and paddock-raised meat. His beef is seasonally grain assisted to achieve consistency throughout the year, but the cattle are fed out in the open. “I think people care more about animal welfare than whether its grass or grain fed,” says Courtney. “They just don’t want to think it’s been stuck in a feed lot.”
Since the move south, Wayne has crossed his primarily Black Angus herd with Red Angus and Murray Grey for increased hybrid vigour and diversity, and he’s pleased with the result.
“Up here with the short growing season, we have to have a fast maturing animal,” he says. “The Angus do well here and have a docile temperament too,” adds Courtney.
While the livestock is Wayne’s domain the father and daughter team work together to develop a product they are proud to offer on the shop shelves.
“I really love seeing the different effects of genetics on the carcass,” says Courtney, who has learned on the job how to select stock that will convert to good meat yield in the shop.
While running a butcher shop may not be a common career choice for many young women, for Courtney it was the ideal combination of her degree in animal science and her passion for produce – it also enabled her to come home to Gingin, where she and her husband James have settled with their three young girls.
“After boarding school at St Mary’s and then straight to Murdoch to study for my degree, I just wanted to get back to the farm. I was lucky enough to spend my honours year at the farm looking at the effects of ewe nutrition on lamb survival. It really cemented the idea that I wanted to do something on the land,” explains Courtney.
“I was living in Perth and wondering how I could make the move home when the opportunity of the butcher shop popped up. Dad was keen and said, ‘Let’s give it a go!’ – It’s been a huge learning curve.”
For Wayne, the shop itself has an even longer history – it was actually built by his father and uncles back in the late eighties and has come full circle back now to the third generation of Fewsters.
“The shop is Courtney’s domain, but I help her out when I can. Part of the reason I semi-retired is so I can help out all the kids a bit.” says Wayne, who is coming up for 21 years on the Gingin Shire Council this year – a role which keeps him pretty busy as well.
Gingin Premium Meats has been running under Courtney’s management for over 5 years now, and the business has built a strong local customer base. Like many local regional businesses they experienced high demand during COVID lockdown, which translated into some long -term growth.
“We certainly notice more people shop locally now that they realise what we offer,” says Courtney. Which can only be a positive thing for regional growth – let’s hope it continues.