AN ARMIDALE premium lamb business has beaten some of Australia’s largest producers to take out the nation’s most prestigious food produce award.
Milly Hill Lamb founders Peter and Sally Strelitz were awarded the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medal at a ceremony in Sydney last week for their grass fed 20-23 kg stock.
The family-owned business was established in 2007 and initially supplied home-delivered premium lamb from their Milly Hill farm across the New England region.
Since then, the business has expanded rapidly, sourcing lambs from some 150 regional suppliers as well as the Stelitz’s own farm.
In addition to supplying local businesses such as Armidale City Bowling Club with their product, Milly Hill also provides lamb to several high-end restaurants in Sydney and Brisbane.
The business has branched out as far as the mid-north coast, opening a retail store and processing centre in Kempsey to deliver products to the capital cities.
Mrs Strelitz said she was surprised to have received the award considering the competition from companies such as King Island Dairy, Casella Wines and Angove Family Winemakers.
“I didn't think we had any chance against such big companies and I certainly didn't expect it,” she said. “It was a huge surprise and a huge thrill.”
Mrs Strelitz said the company’s success was due to an uncompromising approach to quality.
“Only prime lambs, which are renowned for their superior eating quality traits, are eligible under the Milly Hill brand,” she said.
“Any lambs failing to meet these specifications are deemed ineligible for our brand.”
Finalists were judged on the financial, social and environmental practice aspects of the business.
NSW Trade and Investment chief economist Scott Davenport, who visited each finalist on their farm, congratulated Mr and Mrs Strelitz on the award.
“Sally and Peter are to be commended for their transparency and close interaction with supply chain producers on quality standards and for working closely with fine dining chefs to produce new cuts,” he said.
“Milly Hill ensure they have a superior level of financial monitoring that allows them to immediately identify strengths and weaknesses and adjust their practices efficiently.”
Mr Davenport also praised the Milly Hill’s “environmental responsibility”.
“Whilst only a young business, we were impressed with how Milly Hill strives to ensure that its high environmental standards can be replicated up and down the supply chain, which will only further develop with time,” said Mr Davenport.
Mrs Strelitz said she would continue examining ways of improving the business, but claimed there were no plans to expand the business beyond Armidale or Kempsey at this stage.
"The great thing about winning an award like this is I think it makes you think, you have to prove to those who gave us the award that we can do it,” she said.
"There's no plans to do anything further at the moment, we just want to have more throughput where we are.
“We've been talking about different avenues we'll take the company and we'll probably continue with what we're doing. There are some changes to be made, but obviously we’re on the right path.”
Mr and Mrs Strelitz thanked their employees and suppliers for their contribution to the business.
“We're very lucky to have some very loyal employees both in Armidale and Kempsey, who work hard and have been on the journey with us all this time," she said. “Without them, we are nothing. The award is a reminder not only to us but also to our staff and our producers that we are on the right track and that, despite all the daily challenges, the effort is worth it.”