As printed in the Farm Weekly – October 20 – 2022 by Brooke Littlewood
A LAMB symbolises new life and has helped Western Meat Packers Group (WMPG) breathe exactly that into a mothballed Bunbury abattoir.The Goodchild plant, at Australind, was placed into voluntary administration in
2018 and was offered to the market unsuccessfully last September.
With a steadily growing Margaret River Fresh lamb brand, WMPG saw an opportunity to further penetrate the market place and have more control over its offering.
The new acquisition would also continue to extend the enterprise’s diversity and boost its steady regrowth, after a catastrophic fi re in 2009. Similar to the company’s value-added beef off erings, WMPG chief executive officer Andrew Fuda said there was
massive scope for value-adding in the prime lamb market.
Mr Fuda said a strong relationship with retailers – both domestic and international – presented a ready market to provide a strong lamb off ering.
It is at a time when WA meat processors are either closing their doors or opening new ones amid labour shortages, storage issues and throughput.
But Mr Fuda said such challenges may have eased by the time the plant was fully operational, with the intent of processing 2500 sheep per day.
“Given the current construction workload it is likely to take every part of two years to get the plant operational and to our standards,” Mr Fuda said.
“The severe labour shortages may have appeased by then.
“Nevertheless, among our current workforce there is considerable interest in staff willing to shift down (to Bunbury) and undergo a degree of tree change.”
Mr Fuda said WMPG’s methodology was to substantially automate the operation with on the ground support of 150 workers.
Such automation would include minimising manual handling of carcases, which has already been installed at the company’s Cowaramup plant.
“This has led to dramatic improvement in efficiencies and employer satisfaction,” he said.
“Even though we have just settled fi nancially on the acquisition, we have already commenced planning on the plant upgrades and our consultants are undertaking preliminaries.”
With the acquisition WMPG has substantially expanded operations close to Bunbury and the prime cattle and lamb grazing regions.
Owners and directors Rod and Shana Russell are confident the new asset will combine well with existing operations.
They are committed to exploring the facility’s enhancement to obtain a tier two export accreditation.
Mr Fuda said the new facility was comprehensively fitted with beef and sheep chains and chillers.
He said there was suitable capacity for 3000 sheep, or 1500 sheep and 200 cattle combined.
It also has a self-sufficient water source including a reverse osmosis plant, existing spacious undercover yards with specification pens for contract butchering and is designed to comply with Halal requirements.
The article as it appeared in the Farm Weekly can be viewed HERE.