Our Cow: from the farmer to your door
The current food shortage crisis impacting supermarkets across Australia has brought the issue of food security into sharp focus. Mega corporations that feed the majority of Australians have been brought to their knees with the latest Omicron surge, highlighting just how complex and fragile these retail giants’ food supply chains really are. But there is a bright side. More Aussie consumers are now seeing the benefits of localised food systems that aren’t hampered by convoluted logistics networks. And these systems benefit farmers just as much as consumers. Eativity meets Bianca Tarrant of Our Cow, a paddock-to-plate subscription service that’s changing the way people buy meat.
From broke to brain wave
Tarrant and her partner Dave McGiveron originally created Our Cow as a means to stay on the land. The young farmers had purchased their property at Baryulgil in northern NSW in 2017 but were struggling to make ends meet.
“We were weaner producers, and we were turning off weaners each year,” Tarrant says. “But as a farmer, you never really know what price you’re going to get for your livestock. You spend 12 months raising them, then you take the animals to the saleyards. And you just hope that the prices are there, and someone’s going to purchase them on the day.”
Along with this uncertainty, there’s also the weather, which underpins everything in farming. Almost as soon as the couple started out, the region was hit with drought. This led to very low cattle prices that saw the young farmers unable to even cover their expenses. A bushfire also swept through the property, further eroding their hopes and hard work.
“We were just hit with one thing after the other,” Tarrant says. “It got to the point where we had to try something different, or we couldn’t afford to keep farming.
“We knew that meat prices don’t fluctuate anywhere near as much as saleyard prices do. If we were able to sell our own meat, we could secure a market for ourselves and know what price we would get for our livestock. So that’s how the idea for Our Cow came about. At first, it was to bring some security and stability to our own farming operation.”
Our cow, your cow
Tarrant and McGiveron launched Our Cow in 2019, selling their beef direct to customers through a Facebook page. They were soon overwhelmed with demand. It was then that the couple realised their idea could also help other farmers, too.
“We knew how many other farmers would be in the exact same boat as us, never knowing what price they were going to get for their livestock,” Tarrant says. “And what we’d seen, especially during the drought, was that there were mountains of support and donations flowing in from people in the city. They really wanted to be able to help farmers. But the only time that they could do that was in a time of crisis; bushfires, floods, droughts.
“We thought, how can we give people in the city a way to support farmers every day through their food choices, not just having to dip into their pockets in times of need? We knew those guys wanted to connect with farmers and know where their food comes from. So we gave them a way to do that, just by buying food directly from us. The money goes straight back to the farmer, and consumers get to know the provenance of their food.”
The couple reached out to other farmers in the area, and before long, word started to spread. Our Cow now works with more than 150 farmers across NSW and Queensland.
Where does your meat come from?
The idea behind Our Cow is simple: Tarrant and McGiveron purchase livestock from farmers who produce organic, grass-fed and free-range beef, lamb, pork and chicken. Producers include Eungella Shorthorns, Inglewood Organic Chicken and Doonkami Australian Whites.
The animals are slaughtered and brought to Our Cow’s meat processing facility in Casino, which now employs 30 locals. A team of butchers break the carcasses down, and the meat is then cryovac-ed. This means it transports well, stays fresh and fits nicely in a freezer.
Customers sign up for a delivery every two, four or six weeks. They can choose from pre-selected beef, lamb or mixed meat boxes, or can build their own. And every package of meat has the name of the farmer that produced it on the label.
The consumer response has been, in a word, phenomenal.
“It’s unbelievable,” Tarrant says. “People really want to know where their food comes from. They want to know where their dollar is going. They want to know that they’re supporting a farming family with every meal they’re purchasing.”
A connected community
With meat aisles in supermarkets now sparsely stocked, even more people have been signing up to Our Cow. The business has seen a huge uptick in customers in recent weeks.
“It’s easy, it’s secure, it’s safe,” Tarrant says. “The food turns up; they don’t have to worry about it. It eliminates that stress of going to the supermarket and not seeing anything there. Our customers know their fridge is full, their freezer is full, and they’ve got another delivery coming in two weeks’ time. So it just eliminates all of that stress.”
The farmers involved in Our Cow are just as happy. It’s not often that those working in the livestock industry get to know exactly where their animals end up.
“You take them to the saleyard, they get sold on,” Tarrant says. “They might go to the feedlot or they’re exported, but you never really know. What we’ve built is a community of farmers and consumers that can see where their food is going and what they’re eating.
“Our farmers love being able to see where their meat is going. It’s amazing to think, there’s a family in Sydney sitting down and enjoying something that I produced on my farm, and they’re directly linked to me. It’s really rewarding.”
Tarrant and McGiveron also know how much it costs to produce an animal, and that input costs don’t fluctuate as wildly as saleyard prices. Our Cow brings stability to these farmers by offering a consistent price for their livestock that’s set every three months.
“The philosophy we work off is, if everybody is making a dollar, then everybody can be happy,” Tarrant says. “Farmers are making a dollar, the processors are, and the consumers are getting a really good quality product. I think it works out better for everybody.
“A lot of farmers have tried to do the paddock-to-plate thing. But no one has been able to crack this on a massive scale. That’s what we’ve been able to do.”
Our Cow currently delivers to NSW, Qld, Vic, the ACT and SA. There are plans to expand into seafood, fruit and vegetables. For more info, or to sign up for your own subscription and have stress-free access to a range of high-quality grass-fed, organic and free-range produce with proof of provenance, head to the Our Cow website.