By Ian Williams
Burra’s Princess Royal Station owner, Simon Rowe, was more than a little surprised when his black angus beef grabbed silver at this year’s World Steak Challenge in London.
It’s not that he didn’t believe his premium grain-fed beef deserved the international recognition – it’s just he had no idea his company’s product was in the competition.
“The first we knew was when the results came out so it was a major surprise – we were really stoked,” says Simon.
The product had been entered for last month’s challenge by Queensland-based Teys, Australia’s second largest beef processor which sources thousands of cattle every week from stations across the country.
The fact that it chose to be represented by Princess Royal Station at Burra in South Australia’s Mid North is an indication of the station’s reputation for producing beef of the finest quality.
But then Simon has been around cattle all his life. His late father Robert Rowe built the nation’s largest family-owned meat processing business T&R.
Then in 2000 the family bought the 8,000-hectare Princess Royal Station and turned the historic copper mine and sheep pastoral property into a beef station.
Together with their Wertaloona Station in the Northern Flinders Ranges, they produce more than 30,000 cattle every year for processing.
Beef from Princess Royal qualified for entry into the World Steak Challenge because it’s produced according to exacting European Union (EU) standards.
But becoming accredited in Europe is no easy task as it covers processes along the entire supply chain from birth to slaughter.
Princess Royal also faced the challenge of convincing all its cattle suppliers of the benefits of becoming accredited.
“The uptake was slow to start with because it’s quite daunting doing the quality assurance manual and going through the audit,” says Simon.
“But more and more are now becoming EU accredited which is making the source of supply better and they benefit because the premium is higher than the standard Aussie market.”
Princess Royal has also switched from producing grass fed to grain-fed cattle, again to meet the demands of European buyers.
“Producing a premium grass product all the time is difficult in Australia purely because of the dry nature of our country,” he says. “Grain-fed quality is far more consistent.”
About two-thirds of the cattle supplied by Princess Royal ends up in Europe, with the rest sold in other countries and also Australia.
Simon is now grooming the next generation of Rowes to assume responsibility for the business which currently employs more than 50 people.
His daughters Katherine and Rebecca and son Jack are all taking on senior roles.
“It’s the kids business now,” says Simon. “At the moment I see myself as the caretaker until they can take over.”
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