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Merivale Exec Chef Jordan Toft on Travelling North and Cooking with Beef

Established in 1824, the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) is Australia’s largest cattle and beef producer and the oldest continually operating company in Australia.

AACo owns and operates a strategic balance of stations throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory – employing up to 600 people across its integrated supply chain model to produce luxury product at scale.

Rare Medium, a seasonal e-magazine that explores Australian beef and lamb from paddock to plate, visited four AACo properties including their Goonoo Feedlot and experienced an intricate insight into the company and witnessed firsthand the depth of passion, the pinpoint precision and the incredible people behind the business. What resonated most, Editor MJ Morse said was the overwhelming scale that never compromises on quality, consistency or care; the emphasis on animal nutrition; and the people.

A key AACo advantage is the geographical spread of its properties with the ability to move stock to more plentiful pasture or to bring them on to feed at one of the company’s two feedlots.

“Fundamentally, we are grass managers first and cattle managers second. Grass is our air and our blood for the cattle and without it, we don’t have much. We do grass audits monthly to check levels and quality which informs our decisions and ensures our cattle are always on that rising plane of nutrition, never going backwards and just steadily growing,” said their General Manager – South East QLD Wagyu & Feedlots.

Finally, animal nutrition in the feedlot is the final piece of the RPN puzzle. Goonoo consists of a feedlot, station and farm and is a major component of the business.

“Essentially, the cattle come here to be finished. During their lifetime, we want them on a constant rising plane of nutrition and when they arrive to Goonoo, nutrition is the key to providing the marbling in the end product. Our cattle receive only the best – we have full-time nutritionists who ensure they have the best possible opportunity to marble. Coming through the feedlot process guarantees the consistency and quality of our product to the customer,” said Jamie Raven, Goonoo Feedlot Manager.

AACO Westholme branded grain fed beef product

The farm component at Goonoo runs an extensive program of dryland cropping and irrigation to provide year-round high-quality feed for the feedlot. The farming operation aims to provide all the fodder and silage for the feedlot and 20% of the grain requirements.

An operation of this size is difficult to comprehend – AACo ensures 1 million people around the world every single day, can enjoy the best quality Australian Wagyu. To achieve this takes not only size and scale, it takes responsibility; it takes leadership; and it takes the utmost care and respect for the land, the environment and the animals.

Quality production relies on a healthy environment and AACo aims to manage operations to have minimal impact on air, water, land, flora, fauna, and on cultural heritage and values. Environmentally and socially sustainable practices are a crucial part to not only AACo, but also the broader Australian beef industry’s ability to deliver outstanding-quality beef.

AACo also has a strong commitment to animal welfare that was abundantly clear throughout our trip. The care and respect for the cattle is paramount and the company has clear policies in place to ensure best practice in animal husbandry and handling through the supply chain.

About Exec Chef Jordan Toft

As a big user of beef throughout my venues, the opportunity to be chef editor for Rare Medium’s Summer Beef issue and to tell the story of what we do has been great. Beef is such a versatile menu item from grass to grain, primary and secondary cuts to marble scores and ageing – there are so many variables. The chance to learn more about the production side of things was pretty incredible and I started this adventure with an inquisitive mind.

I wanted to see the vast open spaces and the dry season in the North, experience cattle stations the size of some Asian and European countries and to see how they raise cattle in the driest continent in the world behind Antarctica…

Jordan left school at 15 to pursue his apprenticeship, a proud Westie, he has paved out a successful 22-year career around the globe including five years in Europe and five years in California. He now oversees some of Sydney’s most popular venues including the Coogee Pavilion, The Newport, Bert’s Bar & Brasserie, The Collaroy and recently opened Bar Topa.

When it comes to beef in Jordan’s venues, he looks for that sense of authenticity – ensuring the right cut, the right dish, in the right place – working across a range of primary and secondary cuts, grass and grain fed, fast casual through to classic long lunch dishes.

We do everything from a steak frites to a beef meatball, from a whole hanger steak to a premium ribeye. At Coogee Pavilion, customers can come off the beach, grab a burger and a beer and spend half an hour, or at the same venue, they can settle in with a long lunch, enjoy multiple different dishes and finish up with a 270-day grain fed Fiorentina.”

“Then at Bert’s, it’s a whole other level again with different types of dry ageing, grass fed, grain fed – and we try to find the best versions of them that we can. Grass fed is fantastic for us at certain times of the year and grain fed done well is a fantastic product that gives consistency and that’s what your customers want.”

“Grass fed is fantastic for us at certain times of the year and grain fed done well is a fantastic product that gives consistency and that’s what your customers want.”

Generally, it’s about finding best practice through the supply chain and doing things well the whole way through and I think there is a place for both grass and grain fed in my restaurants and in the industry. Having the ability to give excellent examples of both on menus and allowing the guest to choose is where I am at the moment,” Jordan said.



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