A butcher of difference
When Stephen Tamplin decides to do something, he doesn’t do it by halves. Not content with the way his dorper sheep were being processed, Stephen decided he could do better and has now found himself running a busy small abattoir and retail butcher shop supplying commercial restaurants in Orange, Sydney and elsewhere.
Stephen started working with animals from a young age and had his own farm in Tasmania at just 18. His career since has been diverse, including time with the Department of Agriculture in Tasmania and working as a health practitioner in New South Wales. A registered nurse, naturopath and acupuncturist, Stephen has picked up numerous qualifications along the way including a PhD in Health Science.
He bought his property near Canowindra in 2000, but it wasn’t until a few years later, after a stint working as the health services manager in Ivanhoe, that he became interested in Dorper Sheep.
“Spending some time further outback I got to see things like the Dorper Sheep and other types of animals that survived well in the dry stuff and so I bought Dorper Sheep back to my property out in Canowindra,” said Stephen, who had no intention of processing his own animals, until he found he just wasn’t happy with the service he was receiving.
“It was a consequence of a letter, because I complained about the service I got elsewhere — and I wasn't getting back what I was sending in on occasions, there were obviously errors on the return — and the response was: ‘If you don’t like it, you can take your business elsewhere.’ There being not a lot of other places to go, I decided that I can’t be the only one in this position, I'll set up a small facility, where we can do it properly,” he said.
“So, I went through the process, trained as a meat inspector and applied to Council to get a DA and I built my own abattoir at Canowindra. I started purely to do my own sheep and then others asked about it when they heard it was there. It was never intended to grow into what it is now, and it certainly has grown far beyond what I envisaged.”
Tableland Premier Meats is the only all species licenced abattoir in the state, said Stephen, processing everything from quail to emus and rabbits to goats, sheep and cattle.
The area they service extends from Dubbo down to Young, across to Bathurst, Crookwell and beyond.
“everything that is in our counter is processed in our abattoir
and 96 per cent comes from our farm”
“We also get turkeys from Shepparton, Geese from Hay, Emus from the Warrumbungles; we have birds and rabbits brought up from Braidwood and Bega… so they come from everywhere,” said Stephen.
“We've now got very regular clients bringing in their lambs, their pigs, their cattle, their chickens, their whatever and we have others who might just do their own domestic animals twice a year for their own kitchen freezers. There is no minimum: you can bring in one duck, one chicken, one cow, one sheep and not get penalised because you are not bringing in your 10 or 20.”
At first, Stephen was selling most of the meat from his property through the local famers’ markets, but at the end of 2017 he took another big step and moved into the butcher shop in Orange’s Summer Centre.
“We’re a butcher of difference; everything that is in our counter is processed in our abattoir and 96 per cent comes from our farm,” said Stephen.
And any meat not grown on his own farm is sourced from a small number of growers who share Stephen’s concerns when it comes to animal welfare.
“Animal welfare is a big issue and we've seen problems with abusers in the media from time to time… These days people want to know a bit more about the farm and the way the animals are raised,” said Stephen.
“We actually allow and invite people to come to the farm for visits and they can see what we do. We've run open days for the farm and the abattoir so people can see what it is and see the conditions under which the animals are kept and processed.”
With his background in health, Stephen is also proud to offer a chemical-free process at his abattoir. The complex even features a high-pressure water filtration system with ultraviolet sterilising, which means they do not have to chlorinate their water.
“I didn't want chemical loadings on our animals and carcass residues,” said Stephen. “Our meat being chlorine-free is reflected in the taste and the freshness of the meat, and the majority of our value-added products are gluten free as well — everything we do here is designed to be low allergy and low irritant.”
Tableland Premier Meats is continuing to grow, he said. As well as meat processing and retail sales through their butchery, a growing number of restaurants, bistros and cafes are seeking out their products.
“We are supplying to restaurants here and in Sydney, mainly pure meat product, but we are now going into value-added speciality foods,” he said.
“We have 28 different varieties of sausage. We have this patty machine now which will turn out 2000 and hour and we are supplying bulk patties to the burger trade as well as motels. We have inquiries at the moment for slabbed pork belly and chicken breasts for convenience cafe type food, so we are ramping up our production to meet that as well.
“And the beauty is, having our own refrigerated vehicles, we can organise our deliveries to suit what the customer needs and maintain that control from the point of slaughter right through the butchery, to the point of delivery.”