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Farming: Would you pay $8 more for a steak that protected the waters of Lake Taupo?

06 Mar 2018

Lake Taupo, The Rakia, The Taieri, The Mataura.

This story begins with Lake Taupo, once my lake, but it could be any body of water in New Zealand. Now my river is the Taieri.

Fourteen years ago, a couple of Aucklanders left the city and their careers in education and bought a farm on the edge of Lake Taupo. They knew that farming alongside a body of water with the reputation of Lake Taupo would involve some serious environmental considerations, but it was when their farm was put under a nitrogen cap based on their 2004 stock numbers that they knew they had a problem.

A cap on stock numbers meant that the ever-increasing cost of farming would eventually put them out of business, unless, consumers were prepared to pay more for their meat farmed alongside the Lake.

Would you pay an extra $8 a steak just because it was farmed under a cap to protect the water quality of a lake that is a long way away and you will probably never visit?

Mike and Sharon Barton decided to test it with a local restaurant and their steak out-sold the cheaper steak 2 to 1. They then took their meat to Auckland and Wellington and the market responded by paying more for their products.

Now they are sending a container of meat (including free-range pork from the South Island and free-range chicken) and selling it for a premium, in exchange for protecting a lake that Japanese consumers are not likely to ever visit.

The Barton’s are selling their beef in Japan at a 20% higher cost than any other beef sold in Japan other than Wagyu. “This was the acid test,” said Barton. “Would consumers overseas value our story? Surprisingly they did.”

Along with the story on protecting the lake, the Barton’s meat is also:

  • Aged
  • Traceable
  • Consistent quality
  • Grass fed with no additives
  • Free from anti-biotics and growth hormones
  • Audited annually on their environmental claims by Waikato Regional Council

Importantly they also noted:

  • Their farm has the highest stocking rate of agricultural scientists per hectare in the country
  • They have taken a team approach and could not have achieved anything without their partners
  • That the local Iwi, Tūwharetoa, had chosen many years ago to not intensify their land use around the Lake to preserve water quality. Tūwharetoa are an important part of the story.

The OECD in a recent review of the operation referred to it as best practice and is now advocating it around the world.

But don’t take my word for it, go to www.taupobeef.co.nz Magic. Watch the Barton’s TED Talk at the bottom of the Home Page (or, strangely, go to More/Contact and scroll up as there is no Home tab).

Keep asking great questions …

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