The Alliance Group's new $8.6 million venison plant at
Smithfield is now operating at full capacity. Photos by
When it came to building a new venison plant at Alliance
Group's Smithfield plant, the timeframe was tight.
The $8.6 million project had to be ready to coincide with the
closure of the Sockburn plant earlier this year.
Building began in early December last year with a target date
of July 2 for commissioning.
Venison processing ceased at Sockburn on May 25, which gave
the company five weeks to decommission the venison operation
there and retrofit the equipment into the new plant.
Smithfield plant manager Rob Lindsay with venison packed
under the Pure South brand.
But things went according to plan, the plant was
commissioned on time and it had since gone "pretty well",
Smithfield plant manager Rob Lindsay said.
The venison plant, which served upper South Island suppliers,
was now operating at full capacity, processing up to 420
carcasses a day.
Deer suppliers were invited by Alliance Group to look through
the plant earlier this week.
Until now, Smithfield had only processed sheep and lamb so
the company described the venison addition as a "major
The outlook for venison remained positive and the investment
at Smithfield showed the company was focusing on processing a
variety of products for global markets, general manager of
livestock Murray Behrent said.
The Smithfield plant, on 18ha of land on the outskirts of
Timaru, has been operating since 1885.
It now operated two ovine chains and one cervine chain with a
daily kill of up to 7400 ovines and 420 cervines, employing
510 staff at peak kill.
The plant operated almost year-round, the normal kill pattern
being November to August for beef and July to May for
The venison plant could process up to 210 animals a shift,
with further processing of up to 100% of the kill, Mr Lindsay
There was an ability to produce a full range of cuts along
with a full range of Asian offals.
The aim was to provide a modern, efficient food-processing
facility, improved processing capacity for peak periods, and
flexibility to meet the ever-changing market requirements.
The company was now looking at providing a range of edible
offal products, something that was new to Alliance Group, he
The Alliance Group's venison sales manager, Katrina Allan,
said the main export market for New Zealand venison was
European-dominated, particularly by Germany, Belgium and the
Smithfield had become the second plant in New Zealand to get
Makarewa had been audited and, hopefully, both plants would
soon be Chinese listed.
The company saw much untapped potential in that market
because of the increasing wealth in the middle classes, she
VIAscan technology, which measured the meat, less the fat and
bone, to capture yield performance levels, had been operating
at the Makarewa plant in Southland since early this year, and
it was hoped to bring it to Smithfield next year.
The technology was a tool for suppliers to assist them in
on-farm decision making. The aim was to achieve improvements
in prime and loin cuts, she said.
Deer were introduced to the company's farm assurance
programme this year, which was essential for supply to United
It provided assurances to customers that suppliers understood
their obligations to food safety, animal welfare and the
Alliance supplied venison to Marks and Spencer and was also
in discussion with Tesco and Sainsburys.
Deer would be included in the Hoofprint software package,
which was developed in conjunction with Dunedin-based
AbacusBio to measure on-farm carbon footprints, from next
Alliance Group was also "very pleased" to be involved in the
deer progeny test, an initiative for the industry which began
last year, Ms Allan said.
The company had committed both funds and manpower to the
project, which had the aim of improving genetics for the good
of the industry. It was a continuation of the central
progeny-test lamb programme.
It was hoped to have the data collated by February next year,
and it would be incorporated into DEERSelect.
Alliance Group had refreshed its Pure South brand and was
looking into further Chinese joint ventures, and Asian
development, through value-chain exploration and new product
It was considering further development of its UK retail
business with Marks and Spencer and continuing consolidation
in the market.
There was a reasonably stable forecast for slaughter numbers
for the next three to five years, which should assist
Volume and improved quality of European product could have a
significant effect on New Zealand returns, she said.
Wanaka deer farmer and vet Mandy Bell said the recent first
slaughter of animals in the deer progeny test was "exciting".
For the first time, there were yield figures against
carcasses and, hopefully, in a year's time, that would "hit
our bottom lines".