Established in 2019, Provenir is Australia’s first – and at the time of writing, only – commercially licensed mobile on farm meat processing operation. Why on-farm processing? The Provenir founders knew that reducing animal stress produces the best quality meat. They also knew that the only way to achieve this is to allow animals to be processed in their own familiar environments, without the need for stressful live animal transport, saleyards and large-scale industrial abattoirs. Although the reduction of stress is central to the Provenir philosophy there are several other key other production and processing considerations which are integral to delivering the best quality, most ethically produced beef possible. Collectively, these ideals are described by one ethos – the Provenir Six Star Promise.
The on farm butcher and true farm to table meat
Until the inception of Provenir, all commercial meat in Australia – that is, meat for available for purchase by consumers – was processed at either a fixed-location abattoir or a small on-farm butchery. However, neither of these provided the answers that the Provenir founders were looking for. Modern industrial abattoirs were developed as an answer to human convenience and efficiency, not animal welfare or meat quality. For beef producers, the on-farm alternative was expensive and difficult to both establish and maintain, making this an unviable ideal for most farmers. While we explore this journey in our previous article – The on farm butcher in Australia & how on-farm processing works – the key benefits of on-farm processing are discussed below. Each of these pillars forms an important part of Provenir’s highest welfare Provenir Promise philosophy.
The pinnacle of the Provenir ethos is on-farm processing. This process, which involves taking the abattoir to the farm rather than taking the animal to the abattoir, allows the realisation of truly ethically produced, naturally grown meat with provenance. The mobile abattoir replaces the need for livestock to be transported to saleyards, feedlots and fixed abattoirs – each of these stages presenting its own unique set of stressors for the animal. The mobile abattoir also operates with a zero-waste approach, utilising artisan butchery techniques to ensure that the whole beast is honoured and nothing is wasted. Consequently, this process involves the harvesting of a range of lesser-known artisan and offal cuts, which are growing in popularity for both their health benefits and exceptional eating quality. Other parts of the animal are harvested for health food supplements and natural dog treats offered through Provenir’s sister company, Gully Road for Dogs.
To ensure truly ethical meat, welfare is the key priority at all stages of the animal’s life, right up until their final moments. Provenir looks to partner with farmers who utilise low-stress handling techniques and raise their livestock on open pastures, rather than feedlot finishing cattle. While we’ll explore the meat quality benefits further below, free-range farming has important implications for animal welfare. In a natural herd environment, animals are free to wander grasslands and express both their natural character and herd structures. Provenir prioritises the maintenance of these familiar herd structures throughout the animal’s life as a crucial contributor to animal wellbeing, noting that the disruption of these familiar herd groups creates unnecessary stress for cattle.
In an ideal high-welfare process, these herd groups are maintained even when the abattoir visits the farm. Consequently, the handling of these cattle in their final moments is crucial. More cattle are brought into the yards than are processed so that no one animal is left behind. Cattle are handled slowly and patiently – each is pushed up the race, where they are gently immobilised, stunned and then processed. These low-stress handling and kill techniques are designed to eliminate stress for the animal at all stages.
Provenance and full traceability
A key motivator for the on-farm processing system was to provide farmers with the opportunity to sell their own meat directly to the consumer, without the need for an expensive and elaborate on-site butchery facility. Provenir oversees the whole operation from purchasing livestock through to processing, into the butchery and finally on to the consumer. This means that the process is fully traceable in this same fashion too. Utilising the latest in digital traceability technology, the consumer is guaranteed full transparency and true provenance – each pack of meat is labelled with the name of the farm on which it was grown, providing a co-branding opportunity for beef producers. A QR code on each pack directs consumers to the Provenir website where they can meet the farmer and learn more about their unique operation, farming techniques and the personalities behind the farm’s own brand.
Grass-fed, grass-finished & free range
While allowing animals to roam free-range grazing grass pastures has important animal welfare implications, it is also beneficial from a meat quality perspective. Grass-fed meat has a very different constitution to grain-fed meat, and the key to this lies in its fat content. Approximately 65% lower in overall fat than grain-fed beef, this meat is higher in fat-soluble nutrients and vitamins, including CLAs – well-known anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer fats. Grass-fed meat is also approximately four times higher in Vitamin E, four times higher in selenium, and five times higher in omega-3 fatty acids and has a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. This meat is also considerably higher in beta-carotene, an anti-oxidant that is absorbed from the grass that cattle graze and is related to the yellow colour in grass-fed meat – a tell-tale sign of the growing practices utilised.
Grass-finished meat is becoming the clear preference of high-end chefs and consumers alike, and for good reason – grass-finishing produces better quality beef that is better for the consumer’s health. Consequently, Provenir works exclusively with beef cattle that have been finished on free-range pastures, natural grasses, hay or silage.
Exceptional eating quality
Provenir’s low-stress on-farm processing and artisan butchery techniques ensure that the quality of the meat is retained and maximised throughout all processing stages. Less stress means less adrenalin produced within the animal’s body and thus more retained glycogen stores in the meat. This is directly related to eating quality, taste and tenderness as well as the meat’s ability to retain moisture throughout the cooking process. The modern and sophisticated mobile on-farm processing unit also utilises chilling and hanging techniques to maximise yield and tenderness. These quality-driven techniques are coupled with grass-finishing benefits, which means that Provenir beef has a rich earthy flavour and delicious unctuous grass-finished fats combined with optimum meat tenderness.
Meat-free from added hormones, herd antibiotics, or intensive feedlots
Industrial beef feedlots are unnatural not just for the restriction of movement aimed at conserving feed energy but also for the high carbohydrate diets that provide this energy for rapid growth. Heavy grain diets are unable to be properly digested by cattle, and this can lead to illness. Feedlots are also a breeding ground for bacteria, requiring the heavy use of antibiotics to treat the infection. While these feedlot systems deliver the ultimate in productivity, the steady growth of pasture-raised cattle produces the best quality beef in the most natural way, removing the need for artificial growth promotants and liberal herd antibiotic use.
The six star Provenir promise aims to produce the best quality meat possible, with the best outcomes for animals and farmers alike. With on-farm processing as the pinnacle of this ethos, Provenir is on a mission to deliver better beef, better for animals, better for farmers and better for the consumer.