Friday, July 1, 2022

Feedlots in value chain

Grand Farm owns cattle and deer feedlots near its processing plant at Zhaodong, near Harbin. Terry Brosnahan  took a tour  while in China in October last year. When we rocked up to Grand Farm’s cattle feedlot we were introduced to the manager, a Mr Xie. He told us more than 400 cattle were housed on the feedlot at any one time. Simmental and other western breeds are prominent in the feedlot. Cattle can come in from farmers, the grass-fed at 300-400kg LW and the grain-fed from farmer feedlots at 500-700kg.

This beast was supposedly weighed over 1000kg.

There are other slaughter houses in and around Harbin but Grand Farm is apparently one of the biggest and the one many farmers supply.

Putting the feedlots on the poorer industrial land saves the good land for crops. Concrete roads run through maize crops because it used to be public land until designated for farms. I was told farmers/businesses get up to a 70-year lease on the land. Once time is up, the leasee hopes to roll it over or the Government takes it back – with compensation paid.

A Harbin radio journalist asked me if the feedlot would pass New Zealand standards and I said it wouldn’t. An exercise area and better practices might give faster weight gain for little cost, but this was considered a good feedlot for the area and as Grand Farm people said, “it doesn’t pay to get too far ahead of the competition”.

Deer feedlot

From the cattle feedlot the deer feedlot was about five minutes by car. There were about 1200 deer on the day we called in but numbers peak at 2000.

The deer in the feedlot are Sika, Red or Sika-Red cross. All are bred on the feedlot with artificial insemination. Most are six or seven years old, but can live up to 10 years. The primary crop is velvet.

Velvet and venison weights killed were hard to gain but a figure of 4kg/head was quoted by a staff member.

Sika are a protected species and most Sika deer farms in China are just for velvet. Grand Farm has a licence to farm them for both velvet and meat. The deer for venison are processed at the plant.

Before Grand Farm scaled down its deer farm near Harbin, up to 6500 Sika deer were running around on 69ha of what is now Grand Farm’s headquarters and luxury resort. When fully developed, the Deer Culture and Holiday Resort will be a place for guests to relax and wander among the Sika deer.

The Chen factor 

Chen Xi Liang is a former advertising executive and his influence on Grand Farm’s packaging and branding shows.

The younger brother of the company founder and president, Chen Xibin, Xi Liang is in charge of the feedlots and the processing plant.

The meat plant contains a product development and tasting centre. New products are developed for the market, cooked and tasted. The range of product is mind-boggling, the packaging and branding top-notch. Products include frozen meatballs, a range of kebabs, ready meals, hotpots, soups, and health products – especially from deer.

In the product development and tasting room a wall was covered in awards.

Xi Liang explained that some awards are extremely important as they are like ISO quality awards. It takes six to 10 years to gain top national awards/trademarks like the “China Well-Known Trademark”.

The trademarks tell consumers a company’s products can be trusted on quality and safety.

The tasting room is an effective marketing tool used on potential customers visiting the plant.

Grand Farm prides itself on its short processing period. It can slaughter animals and have the product, such as kebabs, on the shelf within a week. Competitors process their meat, then freeze it. It may be up two years before it is put on to shelves for sale.

Xi Liang initially followed his elder brother Xibin into the meat business before he pursued an advertising career. He joined up with his brother again in 1986.

Xi Liang oversaw the building of the plant and dealt with problems such as soft land and machinery sinking into it. He said the biggest problem had been labour.

They had to train workers who had no idea about food and human safety. Training and penalties worked. For example, they have to stay within yellow lines when walking around the plant or else they are fined.

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