Wingham is the oldest town in the Manning Valley and is well known for its heritage appeal and country town atmosphere. Story by peter lyne.
It has many attractions, such as Wingham Brush, a museum and is the gateway to Ellenborough Falls, the second longest single drop waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere.
It was selected as a government settlement, because supply boats could not proceed any further along the Manning River and was centrally located for transport serving areas from Raymond Terrace to Port Macquarie.
Logging was the strength of the local economy for many decades, but as time has passed, it now has dairying and beef cattle as its dominant industries. Wingham is also the location of the Manning Valley’s largest employer, Wingham Beef, who are recognised as one of the leaders in Australia in meat processing and marketing.
While we have experienced tough times in the past two years due to the Global Financial Crisis, Wingham Beef is an important part of the Valley’s economy and continues to grow by exploring new avenues for its products.
So why have they survived and become an iconic brand in Australia? Wingham Beef are meat export leaders – Japan representing 40% of their exports.
The Japanese traditionally have been served by Queensland grown, grain fed beef; however, Wingham Beef, through a marketing campaign to promote local grass fed meat, have been successful. Changing overseas consumer habits is difficult. But, through education and marketing strategies highlighting the unique benefits of their products at the top end of the market at competitive prices, there has been an acceptance of the product – particularly in the western areas.
As a real alternative to the traditional product, our local product had superior table quality, the anticipated tenderness and marbling, which is so important to the Japanese.
Wingham Beef have forged a strong association with McDonald’s, to be the preferred supplier of their Prime Angus beef hamburgers – a product that continues to be in strong demand.
Many abattoirs in Australia have seen lean times, but through solid and astute administration, marketing strategies and their philosophy of recognising their staff as their biggest asset, Wingham Beef continues to grow.
Grant Coleman, General Manager of Wingham Beef, believes his staff is one of their biggest assets, because their qualities give a competitive advantage.
The company provides 400 jobs and work for contractors, and with a payroll in excess of $12 million, the company is also an essential part of the Valley’s economy.
They have become the recognised leaders in training – particularly addressing their skills shortage by providing career opportunities to local residents through apprenticeships.
These apprentices are engaged mainly in the mechanical and engineering trades and include young and mature age apprentices.
Investing in training is reaping rewards for the company. They have introduced a wide and varied range of programs for all employees, so improvement of skills is ongoing.
Their 370 employees are trained during the year by refreshing and upgrading their existing skills, leading to them ultimately being accredited with new skills.Apart from their in house training, the company has approximately 25% of their staff enrolled at the North Coast Institute of TAFE, attending vocation courses. In the past 12 months they have been rewarded for their efforts by winning the Employer of the Year for training excellence from the National Meat Industry Training Council, and they were joint winners for the North Coast Region’s State Training Awards. They also won awards at this year’s Manning Valley Business Awards in the Environmental and Agricultural sections, plus they were runners-up in the Business of the Year Award.
With changing environmental laws and the need to be more conscious of these demands, Wingham Beef have introduced programs to ensure a sustainable advantage. Climate change requirements have led to new business strategies being introduced, developed and incorporated into the company’s production environment and quality control systems – which is necessary to produce an exceptional product and to meet the food safety standards codes.
The use of water has undergone radical alteration in the past decade, and with a high usage, Wingham Beef has implemented a water program to recycle and reuse the majority of their waste water. Being a huge user of water and with rising costs, the company has developed, in association with the Department of Environment, a water and effluent management system that will give long sustainability within its working parameters. In association with this plant, other measures have been introduced to reduce the environmental risks and to ensure programs meet all business and environmental targets.
There has been the installation of a renewable energy bio-mass boiler, replacing a non-renewable energy boiler required for heating through the plant.The company monitors its usage rates of utilities on a daily basis, to ensure they are meeting their targets and to maintain their environmental responsibility.
Experiencing downturns in the meat export markets – the traditional income for Wingham Beef – has led the company to direct its attention to the domestic market. They’ve been aggressive in finding opportunities to tap into the local market, and again, they have been successful.
Marketing their premium quality beef in the region has seen regional butchers, restaurants, clubs, hotels and specialist food stores welcome the opportunity to offer their customers a local premium product. The wholesale market is another avenue they have been successful in, and they have a local wholesaler marketing their products in the Newcastle and Sydney regions.
Wingham Coles supermarket offers its customers a local specialty brand of meat, with an expansion program into other outlets in the process.
Traditionally, abattoirs have been meat processors; however, the by-products of the processing procedure are opening new markets. The company is currently building a facility and installing equipment for blood collection, operating in partnership, providing blood for the medical and pharmaceutical markets.
Apart from being a major contributor to the Manning Valley, Wingham Beef are great supporters of the community – highlighted by conducting Wingham Beef Week. The promotion has been held for 22 years and allows the opportunity for an insight into the history of beef production.
The week includes participation from schools, a craft and photographic competition, with school children heading to Wingham High School for a day on a farm. The students learn how to prepare and parade cattle for showing, and there’s a beef cattle parade, which is judged by students. The company also supports many of the local sporting and community organisations, highlighting their commitment to the Valley.
Wingham Beef is leading the way in being an industry and community leader, and through its continued quest for excellence are an important part of the economy. Their attitude to being a leader through producing the best prime cuts of meat, exploring new markets and being environmentally responsible will see Wingham Beef continue to be recognised as a Manning Valley icon.