NZI Greatest Contribution to a Sustainable New Zealand (supreme award) and Restorative Impact Award
Winner: Taupo Beef
Taupo Beef was named the overall winner of the 2015 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards held at Shed 10 on Auckland’s waterfront last week.
Taupo Beef won the Restorative Impact Award as well as the ‘NZI Greatest Contribution to a Sustainable New Zealand’ (supreme award) through its vision to lead New Zealand beef farming while also protecting the water quality in Lake Taupo.
New Zealand’s farmers typically respond to adversity by growing more.
That option’s not available to Taupo landowners, who had to reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing into the lake from farms by 20 per cent.
Since a major source of nitrogen is cattle urine, that means carrying fewer cows, and keeping the ones left away from the water.
It could also mean changing land use, and a fund was created to buy up land and convert it to forestry.
Mike Barton didn’t want to grow pine trees, and his rolling hills aren’t suitable for horticulture or cropping, but they are suitable for grass that animals can wander over. So, if he grew fewer cows, how could he keep earnings up?
His answer was to raise the value of his meat by selling it with a sustainability back story.
“I thought if a visitor comes to the lake sightseeing or trout fishing and is blown away by the exceptional water quality, and if they go back to their hotel and there is meat on the menu grown in the catchment under a model that protects the catchment, they might be prepared to pay a premium,” Barton says.
He trialled the idea in 2011 with some high-end restaurants, and within six weeks his Taupo Beef steaks were outselling conventional cuts by four to one.
There are now five farms supplying beef as well as organic lamb, and Taupo Beef now also sells to retail outlets around the North Island, including Victoria Park New World, Farro Fresh and Four Square outlets.
Rachel Brown, Sustainable Business Network chief executive officer said: “Told that it wouldn’t work, Taupo Beef is instead receiving outstanding reviews for its beef and is demonstrating how New Zealand farmers can change to produce a high-value product while also farming environmentally and sustainably.”