Meat with a mission
Award-winning family business Wholly Cow is on the cutting edge of a circular meat movement, run out of a Cambridge butchery.
Walk through the Andrews’ family-run butchery shop doors and you get the feeling you could be in a small English village. One where the owner knows the name of locals and people often go in just for a chat.
It’s the small-town, family-run feel that’s a key part of Tom and Carrie Andrews’ business success.
That, and the niche they have carved out as a farm-to-plate, sustainable butchery for locals that want to know the story behind their meat.
Offering beef, lamb and goat that’s reared and finished on their Whitehall farm and sourcing free-range pigs and chickens, the butchery is just one part of the Wholly Cow business. It is a success story which has seen them recently receive a 2023 Ballance Farm Environment NZFET Innovation Award.
A circular economy
In 2018, the Andrews built a micro-abattoir on their farm which meant that they removed the need for off-site processing. The waste from the micro-abattoir and used packaging from the butcher’s shop are mixed with straw and broken down into compost to use on the farm.
This sustainable loop ensures that no part of the animal goes to waste.
“We have created an independent circular economy,” Carrie says. “From paddock to plate, we are responsible for each part of the production process.”
With Tom in charge of the farming and abattoir side of the business, Carrie focuses on reducing waste, which has seen her creativity and innovation bloom with ideas for how the business can be more sustainable.
Using tallow, an animal byproduct, Carrie has created an entire line of skin products including lip balms, soap, skin balms and tallow and beeswax candles along with the original bags made from waste fat, which replace plastic butchers’ bags used for their fresh meat service in the butchery.
Getting the community involved
Wholly Cow customers are encouraged to return compostable meat trays to the butchery, where they are taken to the farm for worm food along with newspapers so they can wrap the customer’s meat purchases, replacing the need for bags.
Their customers are brought on this journey of sustainability, and educated on what can be a better way to be responsible shoppers.
Farmers’ market starts
Originally from Raglan, the Andrews purchased 186 hectares on the outskirts of Cambridge in 2007.
“Cambridge has a very supportive, caring community and being so central makes it easy to connect to other areas easily. We love Cambridge and the connection with the community through running a local butchery,” says Carrie.
With their new land, they started farming beef stock and sending them off to the works in the traditional fashion.
The lightbulb moment came when they realised how crazy it seemed that all of the beef they were growing was getting sent straight overseas.
“We decided to build a trailer, we found a processor, Tom packed it all and we would head to the Cambridge, Tauranga and Hamilton farmers’ markets at the crack of dawn, along with our four kids when they were four, seven, nine and 11.”
From this early age, the Andrews’ children (Olivia, Luke, Reuben and Grace) were unknowingly gaining valuable business skills and confidence through helping Carrie or Tom at the farmers’ market.
The mobile butchery stall in Cambridge led to expanding and taking the opportunity to have a permanent shop in town.
Sustainability and business is in the blood
Managing the butchery today is their second oldest, Luke. A trained butcher by age 17, he honed his business and people skills
at the weekend markets with his siblings. He is part of the five-strong team who run the Cambridge shop and his whole animal butchery skill set earned him a finalist spot at the 2022 New Zealand Young Butcher awards.
Youngest daughter Grace also runs her own recycled clothing store, Mint, in downtown Cambridge. It’s a consignment store that sells clothing on behalf of the original owner in exchange for a percentage of the selling price, all in the interest of slowing down fast fashion.
It’s clear that Grace has inherited her mother’s strong sustainability focus.
A butchery with a conscience
Working on sustainability, recycling and regenerating is a something that takes time and is always at the forefront of their minds.
“Our approach gives respect to the animals, land, community and wellbeing, whilst giving us a greater sense of purpose and has huge scope for creativity,” says Carrie.
Wholly Cow and the family and heart behind the business shows that it is possible to run a sustainable business and produce some of the best cuts of meat around.