The latest Aussie food news to peruse
Our farmers are continuing to struggle with workforce and RAT shortages, with peak industry bodies calling for government action. But the chicken meat industry is on the road to recovery, with supply now almost back to normal. In other Aussie food news well worth a look-see, a Sydney charity restaurant gets a rude shock, and Josh and Julie Niland expand their fish-forward empire. Plus, sweet ideas for your Valentine that also help support rural businesses; Australia’s first biodynamic, organic ghee launches; and a bread baking challenge calls on Aussies to help raise some dough for a very important cause.
Ongoing workforce shortages hold Australia back
NSW farmers are continuing to deal with an avoidable loss of produce and income more than three months after the state’s peak agricultural body called for deployment of rapid antigen tests (RATs) to the regions. NSW Farmers President James Jackson says the higher infection rate of the Omicron strain has brought the fragility of the agricultural workforce into sharp focus. “Last year we lost fruit and vegetables because they weren’t picked in time; that problem is getting even worse for horticulture,” he says. “We can’t keep waiting for governments to act. Long-term reform of the labour market is needed, but we can’t wait years while crops rot because there aren’t enough workers in the fields now.”
We’ll get them ourselves
Meanwhile, in Victoria, the state’s farming bodies have grown tired of waiting for the government to supply RATS. A joint initiative by the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), Food and Fibre Gippsland and Fruit Growers Victoria is sending more than 56,000 RATs to Victorian farmers to minimise the disruption to essential food supply chains. “Our industry, as well as many others, has been crying out for RATs for months,” says VFF President Emma Germano. “We decided to get on the front foot and secure a supply ourselves.”
Chicken back on shelves
The Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF) is happy to report that chicken supply is back up to nearly 90 percent of pre-Omicron levels. Primarily whole chickens were available throughout January, but now a much larger range of chicken products are becoming available, with COVID-related staff absenteeism having dropped back down to 10-20 percent after a peak of up to 50 percent in January. While staffing and supply are stable for now, the ACMF is closely monitoring the situation, given its unpredictable nature.
Nectar of the gods
Leading Australian mango producer Manbulloo is increasing production of its Kensington Pride nectar, which it launched in October of last year. Made from 100 percent Kensington Pride mangoes, the nectar contains no added sugar, preservatives or additives. Despite COVID disruptions, the pilot launch was a big success. The nectar will now be available year-round in Coles across NSW, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT. The nectar is made using slightly marked but otherwise perfect mangoes that aren’t up to retail cosmetic specs. It’s a deliciously refreshing way to cut waste and enjoy Aussie-grown mangoes.
Charity restaurant shut out
Pay-what-you-can charity restaurant Lentil As Anything has been forced to cease operations at its inner-Sydney Newtown restaurant after the landlord changed the locks and took possession of the premises. According to a statement from the restaurant, this is due to it being “unable to reach an agreement on appropriate rent in light of the impact of COVID”. Lentil As Anything also runs three charity restaurants in Melbourne. The venues have been providing food for the hungry and work for asylum seekers since 2014.
Raise dough for a great cause
Since June 2021, social enterprise bakery The Bread & Butter Project has suffered a 40 percent drop in sales, seriously impacting the viability of future trainee programs. Now the bakery has revealed an innovative approach to help fund the bakery’s next cohort of trainee bakers. The “Bake for a Baker” crowdfunding campaign, commencing on February 28, will challenge people to come together in teams to bake breads from around the world and raise funds to help The Bread & Butter Project provide training and employment pathways in the baking industry for people seeking refuge and asylum. And there’s an epic prize up for grabs, too. To find out more or to sign up, head to bakeforabaker.raisely.com.
Vegies: better than you remember
Outdoor Media Association has launched a new pro bono vegetable campaign, “Better than you remember” in partnership with Health & Wellbeing Queensland and Nutrition Australia. The recommended vegetable intake for adults is five serves per day. Yet most of us are eating less than half of what we need. As part of the campaign and to encourage more Aussies to eat their veg, you can visit the Boost Your Healthy website to access delicious vegetable recipes, tips and educational resources to help you rediscover vegies.
Fish Butchery expands
Josh and Julie Niland have opened their fourth Sydney venue, Fish Butchery Waterloo. The new venue will expand retail and takeaway offerings and act as the central fish processing kitchen for Charcoal Fish, Saint Peter and Fish Butchery Paddington. Customers can watch the kitchens through floor-to-ceiling glass windows along Bourke Street. Inside, a 13-metre marble counter hosts fish butchers preparing, trimming and cutting to order. The kitchen will supply dishes like Murray Cod Souvlaki and Yellowfin Tuna Cheeseburger. The freezer will offer Yellowfin Tuna Lasagne, Smoked Red Gurnard Pies and Aquna Murray Cod fish fingers. Fresh seafood, fish charcuterie and rock oysters will also be available.
Buy from the bush this Valentine’s Day
This Valentine’s Day, have a heart for small businesses from the bush. Buy from a bush business marketplace Spend With Us has created a special Valentine’s Day gift guide for those who love good food and wine. There’s a selection of wines from Victoria’s Michelini Wines, a family-owned winery in the Alpine Valley in northeast Victoria. The marketplace also includes a range of handmade chocolates. Choose from Milo and Moo’s chocolate hearts from Goulburn, NSW; or Charlotte Piper’s chocolate hearts with sprinkles, hot chocolate spoon or an I Love You chocolate bar from Kerang, Victoria.
SA ghee turning butter into gold
South Australian start-up OMGhee is an organic, biodynamic, small batch ghee producer with big plans to educate Australians on the health benefits of eating ghee. Ghee is essentially pure butter that undergoes a heating process. All the water, casein, lactose and other proteins are removed, creating a lactose-free alternative to butter that’s rich in healthy monounsaturated omega-3s. It’s perfect for sautéing, baking, frying or spreading on your toast. Ghee has a higher smoke point than traditional cooking oils and is rapidly gaining popularity in dairy-free, paleo, keto and home-cooking communities. Australia’s only biodynamic, organic ghee is available for purchase now from OMGhee.com.
Also this week in Aussie food news…
Many of us have struggled to break bad eating habits since lockdown, so this week we got an expert’s take on why we keep eating when we’re full. But COVID has also led to some positive changes, with new consumer trends driving positive change in the food industry. In celebration of homegrown Aussie food, we also took a look at the burgeoning spice industry in Australia. And for dishes that pack a real punch, we shared two modern Indonesian recipes from top chef Natasya Soetantyo. Finally, we got the chance to catch up with the founder of the No Nasties Project to find out about their new palm oil-free choc spread.
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