Silver Fern Farms & The Future

New Zealand is a lot of beautiful things. I came to learn about the origin of our grass-fed beef, lamb and venison, and was equally swept away by the people who produce it. The best meat in the world is raised on New Zealand’s vast grassy pastures as are some of the most hospitable, gracious and progressive people on the planet: the Absoloms, the Crosses and the Hore family.
New Zealand is a place that has strong roots in heritage and tradition but is leading the world in producing top quality sustainable meat. It’s a place where ranchers care for their livestock the way their grandfathers did, while implementing a highly sophisticated meat quality program.
New Zealand ranchers see the synergies between profitability, animal welfare and environmental stewardship. They walk that triple-bottom-line just as well as sustainability consultants talk it. The beautiful thing about New Zealand ranchers is that the triple bottom line is a way of life, instead of a corporate initiative. They may not have ever even heard of the term triple bottom line. It’s just natural and sensible to them.
They are environmental stewards because they appreciate a pure environment and because they are protecting it for their children. Almost every rancher tells a story about being the 3rd or 4th or 5th generation raising animals on their land and how they are holding it in trust for future generations. They truly care for their livestock not just because it enriches them monetarily, but also because it fulfills them to have healthy herds and because healthy cattle grow big and fast. They raise their animals in idyllic environments.  Doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive to them.
New Zealand is a land of ranchers who work the land today but also have an eye to the future. And Silver Fern Farms is the glue that holds it all together. Silver Fern is a cooperative of farmers, an enormous co-op to be certain, with 16,000 farmer-owners. Silver Fern is developing a highly sophisticated “Eating Quality” program that is designed to take their already high standards to the next level. They have an elaborate system that involves tasting panels and the ability to tie the meat quality to on-farm practices, genetics and processing technique (the three things that play a big part in meat quality). They track metrics that begin with the animals’ birth and trace it to the steaks that taste testers eat. This revolutionary program essentially merges the technology of 2013 with the tried-and-true best practices of 1913 to determine how to elevate the quality of their meat.
Silver Fern doesn’t just see the future, they are creating it. Their level of technological and marketing sophistication is decades ahead of their competitors. And that’s just one of the reasons why we are proud to sell their product in the US.
In upcoming posts, I will talk about some ranchers in particular, but the story would be incomplete without talking about some of the people at Silver Fern. On our two week tour, we spent most of our time with Glen McLennan (left) and Grant Howie (right). Glen takes care of our account. Ask Glen anything about animal husbandry, production, markets and he’s got the answer. And he knows what he is talking about. He’s a soft-spoken guy that’s a true professional.
Grant is part of the visionary team at Silver Fern that is elevating their business from a commodity producer into the new gold standard of quality and sustainability. Business school scholars should come here to see how the value chain and triple bottom line pervades their culture. Everyone I talked to at Silver Fern from members of the executive team to people working at the processing plant displayed sophisticated knowledge about their entire value chain in addition to their obvious expertise with their specific role in that chain. It is so abundantly clear that Grant and his colleagues are implementing a true value chain that produces the finest beef, lamb and venison in the world by connecting all of the dots from genetics, husbandry and butchery to packaging and marketing. Silver Fern is a near-army of intelligent, thoughtful people focused on putting the best possible sustainable steak on your plate. And they are excellent hosts. We are proud to offer their product and we look forward to the future with them.



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One Response to “Silver Fern Farms & The Future”

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