Albury is home to Australia’s first self service butchery, thanks to an innovative paddock to plate idea from local regenerative farmer Jacob Wolki.
The unstaffed Wolki butcher shop is open 24 hours a day all year round for customers to purchase meat grown through Jacob and wife Ann’s farm business Wolki Farm.
“Customers get their unique pin code once they sign up to be a member. Once they enter their code, they gain access to the storefront,” Jacob explained
Upon entering the shop, customers are greeted with stocks cuts of grass-fed beef and lamb, free range pork, chicken and eggs and condiments to choose from- all produced on 120 hectares of leased land near Albury.
Jacob said customers can only become a member after doing a free farm tour to learn about where the food comes from.
“We want customers to understand our values and our ethos and what we’re trying to achieve. It lets people buy into our mission.”
The shop is fitted with high-definition audio-visual security cameras and the check-out process is managed by a third-party app on the customer’s mobile phone.
“It’s been operating for two years. It’s working out exactly how I wanted it to and not giving me any headaches. We’re doing around $3000 in revenue a week, and in two years we’ve had zero theft and zero shrinkage.
“It’s not a big part of our farm business, but it’s easy and its growing.
“Less than 20 per cent of the meat goes through the butchers at this stage. The rest goes to restaurants, local retail outlets, subscription orders and orders through our Wolki Farm website.”
Jacob established the Wolki Farm Butchery three years ago and employed two butchers for back of house processing while deciding what to do with the shop front.
“I wanted to open a shop front, but with my small production at the time I was not sure how I was going to make it viable.”
“I thought it would be beautiful if it could work like a big vending machine that customers could just walk into. I put my pen to paper, found the providers of the right software and got it sorted out.”
Desire for fresh local food
Jacob said an unfruitful search for local fresh food inspired the move into regenerative farming and supplying directly to customers.
“I really wanted to source fresh local food for my family, but I went into the market to buy it locally I was left wanting with not much to purchase, so I decided just to do it myself.”
Already armed with small business nous from experience with his family’s retail operations in Albury, Jacob set about finding suitable land for a diverse farming system.
“It was too expensive to purchase land. It is up to $15,000 per acre, whereas I can lease it for around $120 per acre. I have had to invest around $600,000, including purchasing the freehold for the butchery, equipment, livestock and some infrastructure for the farm”
“I have just bought a portable chicken abattoir so I can start processing chickens on farm.”
“The butcher shop might not have any staff, but we are investing in labour and skills into improving systems on the farm. We grow meat that we think is exceptional, and the resources we save from paying someone to staff the shop are instead used for that purpose.”
Mobile butchers are another option for direct paddock to plate meat. Read more here.