Guyra’s U Goose – the only fully integrated goose meat operation in the country – received awards for excellence in both innovation and small business at the 2018 Armidale Regional Business Awards on Friday night.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Lucy Mackenzie said, who runs the business with her husband Herb on their Llangothlin property. “We were absolutely blown away. It was a lovely surprise!”
Lucy and Herb began the goose farm at the end of the 2014 drought. They wanted something unique that would fetch a better price than cattle and sheep.
“We thought we had to do something different,” Lucy said, “and look outside the box. That's why we turned to goose production. It wasn't so reliant on the weather, and we could fill the cashflow gap in periods when traditionally we wouldn't be selling steer.”
Since then, they haven’t looked back. They supply to leading restaurants around the country, including Shannon Bennett’s Vue de Monde in Victoria, Matt Moran’s Aria at the Sydney Opera House, and Wasabi, Noosa.
They also hope to export goose overseas in the next five years.
Their enterprise has won awards at local, state, and national levels since 2016.
It was the NSW State Winner of the Delicious Awards in 2016, and the Best New Business at the Armidale Business Chamber Awards. Last year, it won a gold medal at the national Delicious Produce Awards in Melbourne.
“It's a team effort with Herb and me,” Lucy said. “The whole thing couldn't operate without the two of us. We love the geese enterprise, and it complements everything else we do.
“We're so proud of our staff as well. We have a great lineup. We started with a couple of people who used to come in and help us on the kill floor; we’ve nearly got 19 on the payroll now.”
The Mackenzies plan to build a new incubation facility next year, which will create more jobs: during the incubating and laying season; on the floor, processing the birds; and in the kitchen, cooking and packaging them.
“We support a huge amount of locals,” Lucy said, “but if our plans go ahead, hopefully we’ll be employing a hell of a lot more, which is really exciting!
“We may at some stage even have to increase the size of our facility. That’s all yet to come, but that’s where we’re heading.”
Their processing facility is the only one in a four-hour radius, and they are happy to process birds for clients.
“If people want to sell their ducks, quails, pheasants or turkeys to a chef or a butcher,” Lucy said, “they can take their birds to us. Then you can start selling that meat legally into those restaurants.”
Lucy also urged others to produce food specialities.
“If anyone has a niggling idea about something they should be doing,” she said, “I'd encourage them to have a go.
“It's an exciting time in the food industry, and it's only going to get bigger and better. There's so much more that can be done!
“You don’t have to do it on a large scale. Chefs and restaurants love an authentic story. I think a lot of chefs love what we do because they can see how the geese are raised, they can see our kids interacting with the geese, even if the geese chase them and bite our ten-year-old on the bottom!”
Lucy and Herb Mackenzie thank everyone who nominated them, and congratulate all the other finalists. They thank the Armidale Business Chamber and the Armidale Regional Council for supporting awards such as these, and supporting and recognising small business.