Pharma to Farmer: Chris Balazs, SageChoice
14 years ago Chris Balazs bought a farm just outside Geelong because he liked the idea of looking after a few cows and providing some meat for friends and family. The hobby provided some much needed relief from the stresses of working in corporate pharmaceuticals. Little did he know that getting to know his cows individually would completely change the direction of his life. Chris laughs about the fact that he’s essentially the antithesis of a farmer. A city boy, scientist by trade, with 20 years in corporate pharmaceuticals.
“I enjoyed the farm so much and I came to realise that each animal has its own personality and stresses.”
With the understanding he could clearly see problems with the way meat is produced and so five years ago he decided he could do it better. SageChoice is an ethical producer of beef and lamb. They have six local beef farmers and five local lamb farmers.
The SageChoice Difference: Passion, Ethics.
Chris says what makes his meat different is the detail. “What separates it from the stuff in the supermarkets is it all came directly from a farmer, no cruel saleyards or feedlots were involved. We pay top prices and that money goes directly to the farmer, there are no middle men. It’s also 100% grass-fed unlike many products that are labeled grass-fed but are still partially grain-fed.”
Recently Chris raised over $17,000 through crowdfunding website Pozzible which has enabled them to setup an Artisan Butchery.
“The current space is too small to do it all. This new one is a 40 ft shipping container fitted out with everything we need to do proper butchery on site. The caracas will be able to stay hanging throughout the process, it will have refrigeration, electricity, water, stainless steel benches, the lot.”
“We’re going to be able to teach people the art of butchery too. There aren’t many places you can learn that anymore.”
Balazs intends to join up with the local Tafes and also run smaller classes for the public.
“Many people are interested in learning skills they can use at home like how to bone a shoulder properly. We can teach them that because we have a passion for butchery. We don’t just default to the quickest, easiest cut.”
On Soil Health
Chris used to spray and use chemicals like everyone else, however, just as he realised the animals are healthier when they’re treated with care, he can see that soil health is linked to plant health, animal health and productivity.
“The pastures are not in great shape. It’s not hard to see that. So we’ve committed to moving to a completely biological farm. That’s why Geelong Compost is so key to getting our pastures right.“
“Chemical sprays are short term gain and long term pain. You really want to go the other way. We’re waiting for some rain so that we can get the first 160 cubic metres on to pastures. It’s very exciting”
“It’s a long game but in a few years the results will be crystal clear. My veggie patch is the perfect example. I added all the right stuff for 3 years and the productivity was ok but on the 4th year it was crazy. The plants just spring out of the soil!”
“We’ll also be adding different animals to clean up bugs. Each animal has it’s own role to play in the life cycle of the farm”
SageChoice beef and lamb can be ordered online or found at selected retailers and Farmers’ Markets around Greater Geelong, See this page for an up-to-date list
Find out more about SageChoice here
Picture credit: The Weekly Review