BEAUDESERT is without an abattoir and Scenic Rim farmers will have to travel for hours outside the region to access one after the closure of Highchester Meats at Gleneagle.
Local owners the Surawski and Herron families put Highchester on the market in 2019 and tried for five years to sell it as an abattoir.
But the 15-acre site, across the Mt Lindesay Highway from an 83-hectare housing development, instead sold to an undisclosed buyer, with details of the sale kept commercial in confidence.
Highchester, which employed 28 staff, did its last kill on December 14, is set to auction off its plant and equipment and will continue to wrap up operations for about the next three months.
It’s a bitter-sweet time for Brian Surawski.
The former banker is disappointed Highchester did not sell as an abattoir but excited to retire with his wife Jill at their 180-acre Milbong beef cattle property and spend more time with their kids and grandkids.
Brian and business partner Trudy Herron bought Highchester Meats in 2011 from Boyd and Betty Campbell, who ran AMH Beaudesert in the glory days of the local meatworks.
The Campbells bought the Gleneagle abattoir from the Perrett family and it is believed to have operated for about 40 years in total at the site until its closure.
“We had hoped someone would take it on, and we spent $30,000 on an advertising campaign but couldn’t find a buyer,” Brian said.
“It feels both sad and good, to be wrapping things up. I’ll be 66 shortly and I’d like to move onto another part of my life, we like to dabble in beef cattle and my wife has a big list of jobs to do.
“We’ve had good loyal customers, clientele and staff and accolades for the presentation of our meat and for our products. We were one of the biggest veal producers on the east coast.”
The closure leaves a gap in the Scenic Rim’s local food movement.
Highchester serviced hundreds of local farmers as a multi-species abattoir processing sheep, lamb, goats, beef, veal and pigs but those farmers now have to travel to Esk, Yangan or Gympie.
“They’d drop the animals off and we’d kill, then deliver to a local butcher who’d cut it up for them. You’ve got to have safe food accredited vehicles to transport that, which we offered in a large truck,” said Brian.
“Now it’s ‘eat local but don’t kill local’.”
Kerry farmer Kay Tommerup said travelling outside the region was not viable.
“For us, it means a six-hour round-trip just to deliver our animals and on top of that issues with picking up your meat on the other side and getting it to your butcher,” she said.
“I’m still looking for solutions we can find as farmers.”
Highchester’s closure will also be felt further afield, as through the sales the abattoir bought from across Northern New South Wales, south-east Queensland and as far west as Dalby.