Meat is al-packing a punch

Shepparton News
By: Rodney Woods
Photo: Courtesy of Shepparton News

Photo Caption: Koallah Farm abattoir is the only alpaca abattoir in Victoria.

Alpaca meat may not be a common delicacy, but a Tallarook couple is looking at changing this by taking its business far and wide to farmers’ markets across Victoria.

Andrew and Felicity Hyde, of Tallarook Meat Co, started with just four alpacas on their property in 2011 and now have 75 as the business goes from strength to strength.

‘‘The first lot there was four of them, which I bought as a birthday present for my wife. Then there were auctions and we bought more,’’ Mr Hyde said.

‘‘We got up to about 20 (alpacas) and had eight acres (3.24ha) and a 30 square house and then we moved to a 10 square house and 52 acres (21ha).

‘‘We also have more alpacas on two other properties who produce for us.’’

Mr Hyde said the idea to sell alpaca meat came from public interest.

‘‘My wife was selling alpaca fibre and woollen products and a lot of people came up and asked about the meat,’’ he said.

‘‘Then we thought, why aren’t we doing this?’’

The venture, which took 10 months to get off the ground, started as just a hobby.

‘‘It’s fast becoming bigger than that, which is good,’’ Mr Hyde said.

He said he and his wife were pushing the Victorian angle as they entered into a unique business model.

‘‘We are the first in Victoria to do this model at farmers’ markets. I’m not sure why. It’s uncharted waters, so we are going to learn a lot,’’ he said.

The Hydes have also been pushing the ‘straight from paddock to plate’ philosophy as people become more knowledgeable about what they eat.

‘‘The MasterChef and MKR (My Kitchen Rules) crowds — they are knowledgeable about foods and want to know where it comes from,’’ Mr Hyde said.

‘‘It (alpaca meat) is also a new product. They expect quality and don’t deserve anything less.’’

Mr Hyde said the biggest challenge was the time it took to get an alpaca out for commercial use, but the love they had for the animal overrode the struggle.

‘‘It’s an 11-month gestation period and it takes three years to grow them out for commercial use. Waiting four years to get them out on the market is the challenge,’’ he said.

‘‘We love them, that’s why we do it.’’

In addition to the long wait to get the alpacas up to commercial standard, Mr and Mrs Hyde also have to complete an eight-hour round trip to Colac to take the alpacas to the only alpaca abattoir in the state.

‘‘The Koallah Farm abattoir has had to have a camelid licence because of the height and long necks of the alpacas,’’ Mr Hyde said.

He said most people were curious when they found out he sold alpaca meat.

‘‘Their first question is ‘what does it taste like?’,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a real meaty product that tastes like veal. It’s low-fat and real healthy,’’ Mr Hyde said.

Alpacas are originally from Peru in South America and came to Victoria and NSW in the late 1980s.

■ Tallarook Meat Co products were for sale for the first time at the Tallarook Farmers’ Market on February 5, with more chances to buy the product at the Collingwood, Albert Park and Nagambie farmers’ markets in coming weeks.

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