What better way to indulge in spring than to relax with a beautiful plate of Three Rivers spring lamb!?
This November we spoke with the team at Three Rivers Specialty Meats Co. about their business venture that, although only began this year, has certainly been in the family for a long time and is off to a racing start.
We had the pleasure of working with Virginia and Annie at our recent Farm to Plate Experience event hosted by Murray Regional Tourism.
The face to face interactions and passion for their work is so evident in everything they do, not to mention their delivery van is super schmick!
Join us at Junction and try our delicious Three Rivers Spring lamb, smoked eggplant, sweet pea & charcoal this spring.
How long has Three Rivers Specialty Meats Co. been operating?
We started in March this year (2016) launching our Three Rivers Saltbush Lamb range. We have recently introduced our Spring Lamb range and, come December, will have Summer Lamb ready.
How did Three Rivers get started? What was the inspiration?
We knew we had a pretty special lamb product which we had been selling on the wholesale market – an environment that doesn’t really offer a means to share our story. With the increasing appetite for consumers to know exactly who is behind the food on their plate, we were confident there was an opportunity to create a more visible presence. We experience three distinct lamb seasons – the classic Spring, plus Summer and Autumn/Winter. We wanted Three Rivers to showcase and educate people about seasonal lamb – lamb beyond the Spring. Just like much of the produce we enjoy, rearing lambs is also seasonally-led, with climatic changes, age, breeds and feed all impacting the flavour and texture of the meat that meets your plate.
Our ability to manage the entire process of bringing lamb to the table means we have a level of traceability that not many meat brands can offer. Our lambs are raised on our own farm. They are transported a short distance by us (minimising any animal stress) for processing at our own facility. And then we deliver the meat directly to our customers in our own refrigerated van. This has become a really important and valued aspect of our business amongst our customers.
Where are your farms located?
Our lambs are raised on our farm in Bunnaloo, which is 55 kms north of Echuca. It’s classic Riverina country, with a great Mediterranean-like climate which our lambs love.
What did the founders do previous to starting Three Rivers?
We kind of have meat running through our veins! Our dad Bruce started pushing meat carts door-to-door in Echuca as a teenager and forged a career as a butcher and then a meat processor, running the local abattoir which is still run by the family today. The three sons – Chris, Haydn and Stuart – all left Echuca to forge their own successful careers. We eventually all returned to our home town of Echuca to join the family business. We each run our own farms as well.
The Riverina is one of the best regions in Australia to raise lambs – it is one of the first Australian regions to bring the much-anticipated Spring lamb to market. We rear the Dohne lamb breed (pronounced ‘doonie’), a South African Merino that was only introduced to Australia in the late 1990s. They are loved for their ability to produce both exceptional wool and beautiful meat, and its dual-purpose makes it a more sustainable breed. The region is covered in ‘Old Man Saltbush’, an Australian native plant that is credited with rejuvenating the salinity ravaged landscape. It is a plant that the lambs adore grazing on during the Autumn and Winter months, and creates a sweeter, succulent texture in our Saltbush Lamb product.
Is there a specific product or cut you are most fond of?
You really can’t go past the king of the cuts – a good juicy lamb rack. We are also loving the ‘Bunnaloo’ Chop – it’s based on the English ‘Barnsley’ Chop which is a double mid loin chop.
What’s your number one tip for the ultimate lamb experience?
Whilst it’s great to experiment with the likes of a slow cooked lamb shoulder loaded with Middle Eastern flavours, there is something pretty special about a cut that is simply oiled, well-seasoned and perfectly cooked. Simple cooking that puts the natural lamb flavour under the spotlight.
What is your favourite thing about this industry?
We are loving serving customers at the Farmers’ Markets. It is so rewarding to hear first-hand how much they love our lamb. We are also enjoying how interested people are about the product, keen to know the ins and outs of how we bring it to market, where it comes from etc. We were chuffed to be a State Finalist in the Delicious Produce awards for 2016, which is an industry-judged award, led by some of the country’s best chefs. These are people that see a lot of different and amazing produce, and to be considered one of the best is both gratifying and humbling.
Where would you take a visitor for an essential country food experience?
We’d absolutely beeline it to Junction! 😉
If you could visit any city for a day’s eating and drinking experience, where would it be and why?
What a great question! We’d love to spend some time in the north of France to try the ‘Agneau de pré-salé’ – salt marsh lamb. It is prevalent around Normandy around the beautiful Mont Saint Michel. It is considered so distinct and such a delicacy that it is protected by an AOC (controlled designation of origin). Wash a delicious dish of that down with the famed local cider followed by a plate of Brillat-Savarin cheese and it would not only be a terrific day but a justifiable “work trip”!
What other local artisans or producers do you admire? Why?
We have some excellent fellow meat producers in our region – Pacdon Park and Bundarra Berkshires are two stand outs who are passionate and very focused about what they do. We love Crossies ‘Cados and Ig’s Figs are sensational.
If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?
Is a lamb roast with all the trimmings too obvious?!