Two farms in Taupō are showing that green farming practices can prove their worth on the dining table, with diners preferring their Taupō Beef brand over other cheaper beef dishes on restaurant menus.
The farms, Glen Emmreth Farm owned by Mike and Sharon Barton and Hurakia Station, a Maori trust farm managed by Andrew and Rachael Mitchell, are the suppliers to a number of Taupo restaurants, under the brand Taupō Beef: grown right here.
Waikato Regional Council has given an environmental ‘tick’ to the beef from the farms, recognising environmentally sustainable farming practices and compliance with new rules to protect Lake Taupō’s water quality.
The brand has been in operation since July 2011, with different cuts of the premium beef on the menus of restaurants such as Hilton Lake Taupō’s Bistro Lago Restaurant, Plateau Restaurant and Fine Fettle Café.
The dining public’s response to the beef in the first few weeks of the trial was overwhelmingly positive.
“At one restaurant, the more expensive Taupō Beef eye fillet is outselling the restaurant’s usual eye fillet dish four to one,” said Mike Barton, who initiated the Taupō Beef brand. “Another has chosen to price Taupō Beef as the most expensive item on the menu and beef sales have lifted from 15 per cent of their total dishes sold to 40 per cent of the total sales.
“The restaurants are getting great feedback about the quality of the beef and also the concept of beef produced in a way that protects the lake water quality. People are asking for Taupō Beef by name.”
Mike and Sharon Barton have been involved in the development of the rules covering farming in the catchment, and Mike is a trustee of the Lake Taupō Protection Trust. More than 20 per cent of the Barton’s farm is in conservation and river bank plantings. The farm is also involved in trials of new low nitrogen leaching farming methods.
At least 25 per cent of Hurakia Trust Farm, managed by Andrew and Rachael Mitchell on behalf of 800 people, is in conservation or riparian plantings. The trustees have recently taken the decision to retire a further 147 ha of farmland to protect the lake and increase biodiversity. They have also recently begun a trial to test ways of mitigating nutrient leaching from hill country beef systems.
Since the brand's inception several local restaurants such as the Bantry and Plateau Restaurant have won the “Beef and Lamb Cuisine Award”.