Oberon abattoir to re-open

Focus on service say new Oberon abattoir lessees

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New lessee of the Oberon abattoir Luke Winder. The abattoir will re-open in mid July, looking to create a processing haven for small producers.

New lessee of the Oberon abattoir Luke Winder. The abattoir will re-open in mid July, looking to create a processing haven for small producers.

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Respect for animals, customers, staff and the environment drives the Oberon abattoir as it reopens, say new lessees.

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IF LUKE Winder's mates in Sydney thought he was mad to give up his electrical contracting business to go farming five years ago, his recent decision to also lease the Oberon abattoir probably confirmed it for them.

In mid-July the abattoir will begin operating again, after a couple of months' hiatus and a change of lessee.

Mr Winder's 40-hectare holding near Wombeyan Caves is now producing between 3.8 and 4.2 tonnes of protein a week, from cattle, sheep, ducks, pigs and chickens.

Mr Winder described the small allotment as the "armpit of the entire area" when he and wife Pia bought it.

They turned it around using regenerative agriculture principles.

Now the 15ha site around the abattoir will get the same treatment, different species will be cycled over the land, and animals living on site will be walked to the processing facility.

Trading as Tathra Place Processing, Mr Winder says he wants to shake the meat-processing industry up.

"In the past 50 years the industry has fallen into mediocrity, there's been disregard for clients and customers alike," he said.

"As producers we have felt like we've been an inconvenience to processors in the past.

"My experience is there are set times for customers and if the bell goes off, your carcase is then off the processing line, no matter it's condition.

"I've lost customers because of poor processing," said Mr Winder, who sells pigs and ducks to Sydney's Feather and Bone Butchery.

"Everything has been on the processor's terms and we want to perform a complete 180-degree turnaround from that.

"For a start we're going to employ at least 50 per cent women, and we'll be hiring and training locals," he said.

"And they'll be able to be certified on site and won't pick up bad habits from other processors during training or certification," he said.

He said the entire facility would be outfitted with closed-circuit television cameras and anyone spotted doing the wrong thing would soon be leaving their employ.

One tactic to improve animal welfare will be short penning times.

"It's about respect," said Mr Winders, "for the animals, our customers, our staff and the environment".

The environment is the motivation for installing a solar power generation system of at least 10 kilowatts.

"We're also putting in modern sterilisation techniques we think can halve the use of water on site."

Offal and waste will be treated with maggots to break it down so it can be safely composted.

Technology will play a major role, with online bookings, set drop-off times and directions to where the animals will be penned.

"We'll welcome customers, offer them a cup of coffee and wash down their trucks while they relax, by the time they leave the site, processing will likely have begun.

"The excrement from the truck will be kept on site and composted. Further to that full provenance will be available to buyers.

"They'll know what paddock and where the animals came from, when it was killed, who the meat inspector was and who drove the trucks."

This information will not only be available to farmers and restrauteurs, but also end users and even diners.

"We can actually print chemical free barcodes on the meat that lands on the plate," said Mr Winder.

The abattoir will also have full de-boning capability and be able to pack boxed meat and cryo-wrapped pieces suitable for sale at farmers' markets.

Mr Winder and his wife have taken a 15-year lease on the facility.

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