Supermarkets? A farmer's view: Gundooee Organic Wagyu

Supermarkets? A farmer's view: Gundooee Organic Wagyu

Supermarkets and supply chains are under increasing scrutiny. We want to know why 'our' farmers don't participate in the commodity food system facilitated by supermarkets.

Together with these farmers and you, our customers, we’re part of an alternative food community with different priorities from the supermarket system. But 'alternative' and 'different' generally means more effort and less certainty.

So why do farmers opt out of the mainstream system?

Here's a response from Rob Lennon, the first organic Wagyu farmer in Australia, who runs Gundooee Organic Wagyu at Leadville near Mudgee, New South Wales.

Read about why we're doing this and previous responses from Near River Produce, Moorlands Biodynamic Farm and McIvor Farm Foods.

Here's Rob Lennon in a shot taken for our book by Alan Benson at the farm.

20 years ago, Rob was the first organic Wagyu farmer in Australia. We've been working together since 2008, two years after Feather and Bone began in 2006 and, as Rob says below, we've grown up together.

Here is Rob's response.

"I am a 'flavour' bloke.

Wearing my 'Business' hat, if I worked through supermarkets, my 'point of difference' and brand would be lost, along with my premium.

Unlike many people on the land, I wasn't handed equity and I made all my own opportunities. I worked for Woolworths for four years in my early 20's before deciding on a farming career, although I had no money or knowledge of farming and no position in the farming community (my first year at Marcus Oldham College was very tough).

I'm proud of Gundooee and our land stewardship and the quality of what we produce. I wouldn't want to see that disappear into the general beef bucket sold at supermarkets.

Wearing my 'Personal' hat, the value I derive (including through Feather and Bone) from helping people learn and make better food choices is immense. Receiving positive feedback from customers provides so much value to me and the direct communication allows for a two-way relationship.

If there's a logistical hiccup with delivery or a seasonal challenge affecting the cattle, I can explain what's going on and we find a solution that works for everyone. My mates who don't have this direct relationship are forced to sell over the hook or at the sale yards etc. and all their caring is lost in anonymity.

Feather and Bone remains a unique distributer of respected food on (and from) every level, as well as being an active conduit for that food…I love being a part of that smart and caring world.

Our size precludes us from successfully supplying supermarkets and most people would think that's odd, because scale equals money. Doesn't everyone want to make more money?

The size of Gundooee Organics is commensurate with my lifestyle and personal capacity - there is absolutely scope to move this business into large scale...and internationally (I still receive about one request every week from overseas interests), but my time as an actual farmer (and father, community person etc.) would be severely compromised if I followed that path.

I've also learned that more money doesn't necessarily equal more happiness for me.

After my marriage breakdown and the devastation of the Sir Ivan fires in 2017, I really felt what it was like not to have the financial security and resilience to cope with traumas. Money matters but it really comes second when assessing life goals. Also, relationships are a huge consideration with everything I do.

I know people purchase Gundooee beef for a range of reasons which go beyond flavour and texture and everyone applies a different loading to all those reasons when making food choices.

I am a flavour bloke, and strong beef flavour comes hand-in-hand with nutrient density. The importance of nutritional density is dramatically under-estimated by most people in my view - nutritious food builds health and resilience. Better to eat a small amount of really flavoursome, nutritious food than a lot of less nutritious or delicious 'filler'.

I remember chef Justin North's classic comment about grain-fed Wagyu; "Highly marbled beef has a strong flavour, it is just not always of beef"!

It comes down to my definition of quality and the things that really matter.

Thank you for the opportunity to express my views and to be part of a quality food movement which is probably unequaled anywhere else in the world. After 16 years working together, it remains an absolute privilege to know the roots of our respective businesses, from back in the days when we only had a vague idea of what we were doing! This is very special and important to me."

Rob Lennon
Gundooee Organic Wagyu

Read the Gundooee case study in our book,  The Ethical Omnivore.

Grant, Laura, Rob - staff farm trip to Gundooee, June 2021.

Photos by Alan Benson for our book, The Ethical Omnivore.

If you don't want the supermarkets to be the only ones left standing, then you need to buy our food!

Shop at Marrickville or Waverley or ORDER YOUR BEEF HERE!

We’ve been sourcing whole, pasture-raised, heritage-breed meat and poultry from sustainably-managed, local farms since 2006.

Together with these farms - and you - we’re part of an alternative food community intent on opening up the line of sight from the consumer to the farm and back again. We think that matters.

Do you love Feather and Bone? Believe in what we do? Support small business?
We won't lie, these are tricky times for independent businesses, particularly small food businesses that put purpose above profits. Of course, everyone's feeling the bite of increased costs, from the farm to your plate and back again.

But there's one way to help us that won't cost you a cent...


Here's one we received earlier...

"Feather and Bone provide a delicious venn diagram of ethics, taste and quality. Their products (particularly ham, goat and beef as well as the Sommerlad chicken) are delicious, and often i find i serve less meat per portion as it is very satisfying to eat. Even if you don't care about ethics, purely on taste and quality its well worth a visit!" - Wilson, 03/24. 

Mrs Feather

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