Great things often grow from humble beginnings. Buy West Eat Best local food hero, Greg Ryan joined the tiny family butchery, Ryan's Quality Meats at a time when all people knew about beef was that if came from a cow. Now some 24 years later, he's at the helm of a huge operation that flies the flag for WA provenance.
“I left school half way through year 10 and did my apprenticeship. Dad was a small corner store butcher, but I struggled to see how we were going to make a living out of that. When I took over we had myself, one apprentice and dad would come in and help. Now we’ve got 55 people working for us at facilities in Jandakot and Bunbury, and my wife and two children are also involved. Each week we’re doing 60 bodies of Butterfield Beef, 180 Amelia Park lambs, 50 sides of pork and a few thousand chickens. The business has changed quite a lot since it started more than 50 years ago.”
Driving that change was a perception that not all meat was created equal. So along with super-sizing the business’ meat processing capabilities, Greg has shifted into distributing, value-adding and marketing exclusively-sourced WA meats.
“When we started getting beef through V & V Walsh (the family behind the Amelia Park brand) Paul O’Meehan’s produce kept coming in and we kept identifying it as a really good product. Then we started asking the question, ‘Whose beef did we get that day?’ When you’ve been in the industry for a long time, you get to know what you’re looking at, and what you’re looking for. Paul’s Butterfield Beef ticked all the boxes and still does: it’s grown at the foot of the Stirling Ranges, so the environment it’s raised in, the animal husbandry and the care he shows for the cattle all count.”
“Getting customers to support WA producers and farmers is an ongoing challenge, but it’s what excites me about getting up each day. WA meat is a product that costs a little bit more but it’s worth every cent, so the challenge is in trying to get people to understand the difference between a good local piece of steak and a piece of steak with no provenance. Our business is all about a fully integrated, WA paddock-to-plate product. We can trace each animal back to the farm it came off. And every person that takes part in the process is employed in WA.
In keeping with the local focus, Greg is now “playing around” with truffle-infused beef, adding a touch of glamour to sausages, burgers and cocktail meatballs.