Words by Neil Grant.
In the early 1990s Gerald Hargreaves from Kakahu Stud went to the United States, and came back inspired to use US Angus genetics to improve his bloodlines. Gerald’s father, Kenneth, started the stud on the family farm in 1954. Gerald and his wife Sue took it over, got involved with AngusPure, and now their son, Tom and his wife Anna manage the stud and the commercial farm.
Today, meat from New Zealand farmers who have used Kakahu bulls is being bought in US supermarket chains, restaurants and wholesale meat distributors in preference to their own country’s beef supplies, which shows the value this represents.
Simon Luoni, a livestock agent for the past 43 years, currently working for PGG Wrightson based out of the Taihape/Raetihi district, commonly known as the Waimarino, has worked with a range of farmer clients and large farming enterprises. For the past 23 years he has sourced sire bulls from the Bay of Islands in the far north to near Geraldine in the south, where the Kakahu Angus Stud is found.
Simon obtains the bull catalogues from various Angus studs and studies all the genetic worth, identifying the bulls that suit the AngusPure programme. If there are enough bulls to pick from, based on the genetic guidelines and structural soundness, he then goes, with his farmer clients, to the sales to buy the bulls that meet the criteria, and of course, the budget.
“We work as a team,” he says. “The farmer or manager will pick the bulls based on what they want to achieve within their operation. These clients have the knowledge of what bulls suit their country, whether it ranges from steep hill country or undulating flat country, and I help them firm up their decisions.
Kakahu definitely ticks a lot of the boxes we look for. Their bulls have got the structure and docility we want, and their genetic values improve every year. I can see the difference in their offspring.”
He is also involved in the AngusPure Special Reserve programme, which is run in association with Wilson Hellaby, and Broadleaf in the US, making sure the bulls purchased will fulfil the criteria that meet the requirements wanted in this programme.
“There are 89 Angus studs associated with AngusPure, and Kakahu Angus is a stud that we attend to purchase bulls that fit our criteria. The progeny, whether they are steers or heifers, are fattened. When ready they are sent to Wilson Hellaby where they are slaughtered, then processed for export to the US under the AngusPure Special Reserve brand.”
Guy Sargent from AngusPure approached Simon three years ago about supplying AngusPure into the US. It is now big business, dealing with 80 cattle per fortnight. Last July, Simon visited the US and saw for himself how the programme was progressing there. He and an AngusPure representative visited a number of meat distributors and supermarkets in Los Angeles to see what they need to do to be competitive in that market. Simon spoke to a number of housewives in a supermarket and they gave him an idea of what they were hunting for. They were picking up packets of meat and putting them back down and moving along – the reason for that is that they were unable to read the writing on the labels and really wanted to know the origin and also the purity of the meat. They were also very interested in the tenderness of the meat from the marbling (which is indicated on the meat label in the US). In the supermarket there was a lot of American beef labelled “grass fed”. Simon reckons we need to be more precise with marketing our beef in regard to traceability, purity and origin.
A lot of Americans, though, just eat hamburger, so they are exporting quality mince to make beautiful AngusPure patties, right through to the high end steaks. It seemed to Simon that the discerning buyer preferred grass fed beef over grain fed beef.
“For NZ beef to be competitive in the US market, we need to ensure that our labelling is improved with both traceability and marble scoring information clearly depicted on the label.
Our beef also should be promoted as “Pure Angus”, raised from the mountains to sea. We need to make it more attractive and a more desirable product than their own. There are too many lower end products out there at the moment so it’s important we promote its quality.
“It is imperative we promote this product in New Zealand. Angus Pure is already in the high end restaurants in the US and we need to continue to promote it locally within our regions. Much of our top quality meat goes overseas, we need to find a way to be able to offer it on a wider basis to households in New Zealand.”
The company is looking at selling AngusPure meat packs online to consumers here. The traceability would be on the box so customers can Google the origins of the meat they’ve purchased. If all 89 partners got involved this would crank up the quality of the home delivery. Simon reckons that New Zealanders want this information as consumers are now more interested than ever in what they are purchasing and where the meat they consume is coming from. Lesser cuts can be marketed into top end meat patties, sausages and pies. There is massive opportunity in extending the AngusPure family of protein.
When Simon Luoni started his working life in agriculture, some astute older farmers showed him what good livestock looked like and how to draft. They were the pioneers in the business. Simon now tries to relay what he has learnt over the years to the younger agents coming through.
“Pure New Zealand Green, and Black. Those Americans like a good story – we can give them one “