Thursday, January 28, 2010

From Gate to Plate

Today was an extremely busy and educational day. We started out with a presentation under the gazebo on the grounds of the Irene Country Lodge near Pretoria listening to Dave Ford who is the Executive Director of the Feedlot Association and Chairman of the Red Meat Industry Forum in S.A. The meat industry in S.A. is facing very similar issues that our own producers face but their main goal is to provide consistently sufficient quantities of meat, and try to educate the rural producers about the standards of the industry such as vaccination and marketing.

We drove 45 minutes to the southwest of Johannesburg to Karan Beef in Heidelberg and were greeted at the abattoir (slaughter house and packing plant) by the American flag flying high alongside the S.A. flag. Elias Mosuwe started our tour at the unloading point and took us through every section of the processing facility where they process 1300 head of cattle from the Karan Beef Feedlot per day. They sell packaged meat to retailers along with sides of beef (swinging beef) to various butcheries who cut their own meat. We even enjoyed the opportunity to browse through their public store where their coolers were filled with all cuts of meat along with chilled bones, clean tripe, minced lungs, heart, brisket, pickled hump, corned tongue, tail and others. They are a source of affordable meat and a very integral part of the rural community.

From there we were hosted at the Karan Beef Feedlot, which is the largest in the southern hemisphere, and served delicious grilled rump steaks. This 120,000 head feedlot was absolutely impressive. The Research and Development Manager, Ben, boarded the bus with us for an impressive tour of the processing facility, feedlots and feed mill where they mix and deliver 1100 tonnes of ration per day to the 1000 pens of cattle. The cattle are bought as weaners at 7 -8 months of age and fed for 125 days on rations that contain maize, ground straw, ground hay, hominy chop, brewer’s grains, molasses meal, minerals and monensin. Karan Beef has grasped the concept of being totally integrated from feeding to bringing the meat to the plate.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Hokaai Butchery in Pretoria where everyone got the opportunity to taste S.A.’s most popular meat, biltong(dried meat). After a few people were definitely hooked, some made purchases of the delicious biltong. At the lodge, Dr. Martin Lazenby, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, told us about religion and cultural differences among the S.A. community.

Submitted by Nancy Johnson and Dave Schroth.