A CHANCE meeting over a beer at Beef Australia last year has sent the Penfold family on an international journey they never imagined.
Feeding 3000 head across two feedlots in Meandarra, Karen and Dan Penfold — with their four daughters, Bonnie 21, Molly 19, Jemima 17, Matilda 15 — grow cattle for a large domestic supermarket and were presented with an opportunity to export Black Angus to China.
After a long day at Beef in Rockhampton, Mr Penfold was looking for a place to rest his tired feet when he spotted one seat left at a table in a bar.
In a twist of fate, taking that seat altered his family’s business future.
“There was an Asian couple sitting there and he started talking to them and they were from Wuhan in China and were meat wholesalers and were looking for a grazier to grow beef for the business in Wuhan,” Mrs Penfold said.
“It was a chance meeting at a bar over a beer, that’s how our story started.”
The Penfolds invited Nisha Wang and Frank Zhang from ANZJOY International Trading Co out to their property to see how they did things.
“Prior to getting any beef to China we spent 12 months educating them on growing beef,” Mrs Penfold said.
“They wanted Black Angus. Dan buys out of Roma every week, so he took them to the Roma Saleyards.
“We showed them the whole production chain before we even agreed on our first consignment.”
Four Daughters branded beef is sent from Meandarra to Wuhan in China.
Mrs Penfold said she and her husband wanted to expand their business for their daughters, who all want to work on the land.
She said Ms Wang and Mr Zhang were fascinated by the girls’ major role in the business, and that’s how they came up with the name for their branded beef- Four Daughters Premium Black Angus.
“We came up with the name Four Daughters with them, because they were amazed that our daughters worked outside with us all day and would come inside and helped us cook dinner,” Mrs Penfold said.
“The only reason we’ve gone into an export market is to look for another way to sustain our business because the girls don’t want to do anything else.”
When the Rural Weekly caught up with Mrs Penfold, she said they had just sent their fourth container (75-80 head) of 150 day cattle on their journey to China.
She said the cattle were killed at the Northern Co-operative Meat Company (NCMC) abattoir in Casino.
“There is just no space in abattoirs for custom kills, so we’ve been incredibly fortunate to be given space to produce our branded beef at NCMC,” she said.
“First they are processed and the next day they get boned and boxed into the cuts our customer wants.
“We age them for seven days before they’re frozen and then they’re sent via ship from the Port of Brisbane to the port of Shanghai.
“What goes on to get the beef from our feedlot to tables in China is quite mind-boggling.”
Four Daughters is part of this year’s Shell QCG Emerging Exporters program in partnership with Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise.
“I had no idea what I was doing and how to export. I’m learning as I’m going,” Mrs Penfold said.
“We needed help so I was given the name of Geraldine Doumany at TSBE. She gave incredible advice and guidance from the word go.
“She told us to apply for the Emerging Exporters. Now we have the assistance of Geraldine as well as many of her contacts.”
Karen Penfold of Four Daughters Premium Black Angus.
There are a number of challenges faced by the Penfolds in their export venture, and Mrs Penfold said communication was the biggest.
“It’s been a fascinating journey so far, it’s not easy,” she said.
“The cultural communication has been a challenge. Verbally communicating and writing can be a challenge.
“There is massive potential going forward but the challenge will be to make sure we can keep communication clear. Whether it’s a success or not will be the ability to communicate.
“I’m constantly WeChatting with China.”
(WeChat is a communication platform used in China to send messages, make calls, and share photos.)
Another challenge involves avoiding waste and getting the most out of the animal, as the Chinese market doesn’t want rump.
“We’re selling rumps domestically. As Australians we don’t get to eat 150 day beef here, it’s all exported. So we’re selling rumps directly to the public,” Mrs Penfold said.
“I’ve sold my first 150 and I’m about to sell my next 150.
“Our domestic Four Daughters brand is still in its infant stage. We’re trying to get it into pubs on the Western Downs.”
Mrs Penfold said in the future they would like to produce a smaller black Angus for the domestic market.
Mrs Penfold said they deliver rumps directly from Brisbane to the Western Downs and Toowoomba.
- Cassandra Glover, Rural Weekly