BUY LOCAL: Kieren and Andrea Luck run Bannock Brae – an integrated paddock-to-plate family business at Meringandan.
BUY LOCAL: Kieren and Andrea Luck run Bannock Brae – an integrated paddock-to-plate family business at Meringandan. Bev Lacey

Paddock to plate beef on Darling Downs

CONSUMERS have an increasing desire to know where their food comes from, and retailers are slowly integrating that into their business.

But Meringandan farming couple Kieren and Andrea Luck figured it out about nine years ago.

Their business, Bannock Brae, has grown in leaps and bounds over that time and profitably embraced the paddock-to-plate philosophy.

They opened their farm and onsite butcher to the public in November 2005, when they began delivering fresh cuts of home-grown beef to their customers' doors.

It has since evolved into a busy corner store in Highfields, just north of Toowoomba city, where the doors open at midday and the steady stream of customers keep the staff busy.

The shop's doors opened in May this year and after a few teething problems in terms of meat supplies to meet demand, the Bannock Brae retail store has a loyal customer base.

"We've slowly gotten a handle on everything," Andrea told the Rural Weekly in between serving customers on a busy Friday morning.

"Keeping up with demand is a bit difficult and there were a few challenges at the beginning."

She said customers regularly asked where the meats were from. It is with a bit of pride Andrea can tell them the majority of the beef is bred and grown on their 688ha (1700 acre) Meringandan farm.

The family has a preference for limousin cross and santa cross cattle and they are conditioned with crops grown on the property.

Pigs are sourced as locally as possible, and generally through the Toowoomba Elders saleyards.

Poultry is sourced from a producer outside of Toowoomba, and the majority of the lamb is also bred and grown on the farm.

"We have a close relationship with most of our suppliers so we can tell people exactly where they're from," Andrea said.

A contributing factor to opening the retail store in Highfields was the desire to keep staff employed under the Bannock Brae banner, and the business now employs two apprentices, two full-time butchers and one part-time and one full-time packer.

Kieren and Andrea are also integral to the running of the business, and the couple's two sons - Adam and Jordan - help out on Saturdays.

Another reason behind the decision to open a shop was to meet a need lacking in their community.

Highfields has been identified as one of the fastest growing communities in Queensland.

But when the local butcher shop at the supermarket down the road closed down at the end of the year, residents were left with little choice to buy meats outside major retail chains.

"So when they closed down, we thought it would be a good time to open up a shop," Andrea said.

"We had our eye on this shop for a while and when we thought the timing was right, we went for it."

When the Rural Weekly caught up with Andrea, it was outside shop hours but despite the sign on the door saying closed, it was unlocked and customers still entered the store.

"It's like this a lot - they come in waves," Andrea said between serving customers.

"We're a butcher shop with a difference."

Staff do a stocktake each afternoon to know what has to be processed at the accredited butcher site on the family's farm and trucked to the store by 11.30am each day.

And when doors open at midday, there's a steady stream of people through the doors until they're locked at 6pm.

"On the farm it's very labour intensive," Andrea said.

"But we want things to be as fresh as possible so people know that what they're buying is a good product."

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