Laurel View, a beautiful 300-acre farm situated between Burrawang and Robertson has been home to the Mauger family for almost a century. Our third-generation family of farmers and butchers know a thing or two about raising cattle and producing top quality meat.
This month we had a chat to John Mauger about his story, his approach to farming and how he was living the Paddock to Plate philosophy long before it became ethically fashionable.
Interview with John
Tell me a bit about the Mauger family history.
My Dad, Joe Mauger started out at Laurel View in the 1940’s growing cabbages and potatoes. It was a good move as he managed to pay off the cost of buying the farm after one season! The enterprise grew to include cattle and sheep and in 1972 the first Maugers Meats Butchery opened in Burrawang.
I finished school at 15 and went straight to work in the shop, doing my apprenticeship at the same time. I became a fully qualified butcher at 18 and took over the shop from Dad when he went back into the farming side of the business (similar to the setup we have today with me working the farm and my son Mat expanding the butcheries).
The Mauger name is synonymous with great meat in the Southern Highlands, what makes your beef and lamb a cut above?
It is my firm belief that grass feeding is better for the animals and that a natural diet and growing slowly on quality pasture produces exceptional meat. Our cattle and sheep live in a natural environment with large areas to roam and plenty of access to top quality feed, water and shelter. We don’t use growth hormones or antibiotics. We take a sustainable approach to farming at Laurel View, working on the health of our soils and using strategies to encourage biodiversity.
What breeds do you have a Laurel View and why?
Our preferred breeds are Angus, Hereford, and Murray Grey, all of which have a good fat coverage (good fat coverage = great flavour in your meat), all our breeds fatten well on grass and are picked individually, with temperament being a key attribute I look for at the Saleyard.
You’ve been offering a Paddock to Plate experience from your farm to Maugers Meats butchery customers long before the concept became fashionable, what’s important to you about this ethos?
The importance of buying local produce and making sustainable food choices cannot be underestimated in my opinion – neither can having a good relationship with your butcher! In recent years, knowing where your food comes from and making ethical choices has become increasingly important. I feel incredibly proud that an approach we have always had has become mainstream and I love that we are able to offer an authentic Southern Highlands Paddock to Plate experience.
You take a sustainable and regenerative approach to farming at Laurel View, what does that mean?
Regenerative farming and sustainability have long been a cornerstone of our approach at Laurel View. Periods of climate uncertainty in recent years have meant that a sustainable approach is now as much of a necessity as an environmental and ethical consideration for farmers like us. The approach invests in soil health, growing biodiversity, retaining water and carbon in the soil, and building long term resilience. At the moment I am working on ‘cell grazing’, creating 10-acre paddocks where the livestock are contained for a period, eating the grass and naturally fertilising the ground before rotating to the next, to let the paddock recover and reproduce strongly. Another focus for me is replacing some of the old trees that we lost due to age and drought in recent years.
What challenges to you face as a farmer?
Farming is always challenge; any farmer will tell you how relentless it can be. Sadly, I see the industry in something of a decline with it becoming harder and harder for farms to be profitable. Many, like us, must diversify and have other income streams in order to survive. Environmental issues are always there, and you must do what you can to prepare and have the ability to increase/decrease your capacity to balance the lean years with the good years – farming is a long term game!
What are the benefits of buying your meat from a butcher?
Having a good butcher where you can access top quality, expertly prepared meat from considered source is always a better choice. A good butcher can help you find the right cut for your recipe and offer advice. If you buy from Maugers, we are a whole carcass butcher which means we break down the beef and lamb ourselves, ensuring precision cuts and less wastage.
What’s your favourite cut of meat?
For myself? A nice lamb chop! However, it’s my belief that any cut of meat can be excellent if you cook it the right way.
What are your hopes for the Laurel View?
I’d love it if our family were still farming here in 100 years. I hope that the work we are doing now around regeneration will ensure that we build long term resilience and long after I’m gone I hope they say “He sold bloody good meat”!
Interested in knowing more?
John Mauger offers private group tours and farm stays at Laurel View, contact us here: [email protected]