URALLA butcher Dale Goodwin has a thriving meat business, and it’s all thanks to beer.
Not only has he incorporated alcohol in his now nationally sought after sausages, but after years of testing and trials Mr Goodwin has rapidly increased the marbling in his sheep by feeding them spent grain from a local brewery.
Mr Goodwin currently runs a flock of 250 Border Leicester ewes, lambing them out to Poll Dorset rams on local lease country before finishing their 340 to 350 lambs on his 50 acre property.
While not a feedlot situation, the sheep are given a ‘top secret’ ration of forage and by-product from the New England Brewing Co.
The Australian malted barley is modified during the malting process with the starch and sugars extracted as it is converted into alcohol, making it easier for livestock to consume.
It’s allowed Mr Goodwin to feed the cost-cutting supplement to his sheep at a younger age and produce the same level of marbling commonly seen on a 60 kilogram sheep from just 30 kilograms.
“People just think that you feed it out to them, but you don’t,” he said.
“Because it’s such a wet product, there is no dry matter so it doesn't stick to the sheep. They’re full all the time but they don’t fatten well.
“So we did a lot of testing and sent a lot of samples away and we’ve got that down to a pretty fine art now after a couple of years and now get maximum results.”
New England Brewing Co owner Ben Rylands had previously supplied the by-product to a Merino stud breeder and now receives weekly phone calls from people asking for an order of the valuable fodder.
“Most breweries in regional locations do give the grain to a livestock producer,” he said.
“Some larger breweries in Sydney have spent grain but because it's wet, it’s really hard to transport. Dale gets a ute load each day which is manageable.
“Dale has been able to leverage our customers in capital cities for small orders for functions or events that we attend. Even though the sausages in the shop in Uralla seem small, it has become a shared customer base.”
Mr Goodwin’s lamb make up half of the annual production for his butcher shop, Dale’s Downtown Meats, which he has transformed from a ‘one man band’ to employ potentially six full time staff.
Supplying his own livestock has been a major financial benefit to the success.
“It wasn't competition that worried me so much it was product quality, making sure we get what we wanted,” Mr Goodwin said.
“It’s really hard to get a 20kg lamb and then throw that much fat in the bin, it just doesn't pay. It’s taking three to four per cent off your bottom line and you can’t have that.
“So if we can grow them out to the exact weight, because I weigh them every week, the waste factor is down by probably a quarter.”
While fellow butcher shops in the small town have closed, Mr Goodwin credits his focus on diversification.
Customers travel from Tasmania and the Northern Territory to secure one of the four beer flavoured sausages on offer at his store, substituting water for New England Brewing Co products when they are made.
During the Seasons of New England event attended by up to 6500 people, the butcher shop sells between 3000 and 5000 of their specialised sausages in one day.
“My father has been butchering his whole life and when I said I was going to make beer snags and charge $20/kilogram, he told me it won’t work, you will have to throw them out, no one is going to buy them,” Mr Goodwin said.
“He has had to eat humble pie bad.”
They have since offered their own small goods range of salami, chorizo and kransky along with a nitrate preservative free bacon.
“It is still the old fashioned butcher shop,” he said.
“When you walk in it still looks the same, smells the same, ugly butchers everywhere, but we try and jazz it up too because there are only 2500 people in Uralla.
“Because it’s a small country town, people don’t like seeing a window full of marinade or crumbs. We keep it to a minimum but we do it regularly, so we rotate it so they don’t get sick of eating the one thing all the time.”