News & Updates

Serving award winning beef

Words by Natalie Campbell

Pictured: Brian, left, and Lyndon Everton are bringing back the real taste of beef using their specially designed dry aging process.

A product development process that’s taken longer than three years to perfect has paid dividends for family-owned meat wholesaler, Cabernet Foods Ltd.

The North Island-based business and lower North Island Hereford Prime processor has recently launched its 30-day dry aged Everton beef into the marketplace – and it’s already received industry acclaim.

The product was named a finalist in two categories of the NZ Food Awards – the innovation category and chilled/short shelf life award.

Joint managing director, Brian Everton, said the development of their 30-day dry aged Everton beef came about after looking at beef trends in Europe and the America.

“We noticed a growing demand and interest in traditional ways of beef processing,” he says.

Traditionally beef was hung and aged for extended periods of time and he and brother Lyndon grew up with those enhanced flavours. But he says as meat processing has looked for efficiencies, vacuum packing and wet aging has replaced traditional techniques.

Dry aging is a method that ages beef and removes a small percentage of moisture from the beef cut, while enhancing flavour and retaining juiciness in a temperature controlled environment.

Brian says dry aging locks the flavour into the beef cells, which means taste isn’t lost in the serum (fluid) common with vacuum packed (wet) aged beef. However, he says the traditional technique came with its own challenges – namely waste from having to trim the inedible outside layer off.

“Real taste has been forgotten due to processing efficiencies.”

Brian says they looked at dry aging and how they could incorporate it into a sustainable business model and set about developing their own technique with minimal waste.

“It needs to be controlled and we need to prove it is fit for purpose.”

Careful not to reveal their dry aging secrets, Brian says they remove whole scotch fillets and sirloins from the bone before the beef cuts enter a closely guarded process to be aged for a minimum of 30 days.

Dry aging can be expensive and that’s a challenge for small business in terms of cash flow and holding the beef for that extended length of time.

“We designed our own technique that’s cost-effective,” Brian says.

Cabernet sell about one tonne of 30-day dry aged beef a week – comprising the sirloin and scotch fillet. Their partnership with Hereford Prime (HP) has seen some HP dry aged and he hopes that is an area they’ll expand. They are trialling HP rumps in their dry aging programme.

“There is demand (for the dry aged Hereford) but we need more supply of cattle,” he says.

The brothers entered the NZ Food Awards with their new product because they saw it as a chance to showcase the brand and a unique product.

Pictured: Brothers Brian, left, and Lyndon Everton with Eagle Consumables product manager Frances Toumlin at the Food Awards gala evening.

Brian says the awards process was daunting and intense – it took several weeks to prepare the entry.

Cabernet’s 30-day dry aged Everton beef was named a finalist in two categories, innovation and chilled/short shelf life.

“We were up against all sorts of products – beers, salads, cheeses.”

The category win was also exciting for the staff, who had been involved in the process for the past three or four years of development.

“It’s been great for them to see something that started out to go through and be recognised,” Brian says.

Cabernet Foods is an integrated beef, lamb and pork domestic supplier.

“That’s our point of difference – we are fully integrated from the paddock to the plate and we can supply our customers, if they want, with the detail to say this beef came from such and such a farm.

“Providence is what you’d call it.”

He says, traditionally, the business would be considered a wholesaler, but the development of their dry aged beef is a step towards the more specialised retail market.

“We are marketing it as a consumer product and it’s packaged that way – it’s ready to take home.”

The business has operational facilities in Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay and Waikato, employing about 80 staff.

Beef is toll processed by Taylor Preston near Wellington and Progressive Meats in Hawke’s Bay.

The business has its own fleet of 10 refrigerated trucks on the road that travel the North Island carrying Cabernet’s beef, lamb, pork and small goods.

Cabernet is part of a group of businesses – Everton Land Ltd, the farm component that is used for finishing and holding livestock, and Kintyre Meats Ltd, the abattoir, processing and distribution arm of the business.

Brian says Hamilton is home to Cabernet’s distribution and further processing centre and is where all the dry aging is done. The sheep, beef and pig farms total 180 hectares and are largely used for holding livestock, to assist with continuous supply. A Manawatu pig farm is the only breeding unit.

Lyndon and Brian have their own area of expertise within the business, with Lyndon Wairarapa-based and overseeing livestock procurement, farming, processing and southern distribution. Lyndon is a Massey agriculture graduate and has worked on farms around New Zealand and ranches in America.

Brian is Hamilton-based and manages the distribution and further processing plant and oversees product development and marketing. He has a background in butchery and is a meat technology graduate from Massey University.

The family connection to the meat industry stems back to the 1920s, making Brian and Lyndon the third generation in the family to be involved in the sector.

They established Cabernet Foods in 2002 and have been sustainably growing the business ever since.

Brian says the family-owned business wants to continue providing sustainable food solutions for the marketplace.

“We’d like to increase our beef processing and sales.”

When it comes to Hereford Prime, Brian says he’s keen to push the brand further into the marketplace, but this can’t be done without consistent supply of quality Hereford cattle.

He says a lot of customers are growing tired of all the Angus products in the marketplace and so building consumer awareness of the brand as an alternative is important to him.

“We want to push that Hereford connection and being a partner with Hereford Prime has been positive for our business and we’re seeing an increase in demand for our Hereford Prime products.”

Pictured: An example of the retail packaged 30-day dry aged Everton beef using Hereford Prime.

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