Pigeon and quail may not be the first thing you look for on a restaurant menu, but a new boutique abattoir aims to boost supply of the poultry products.

Key points:

  • A new abattoir in the country’s beef capital is aiming to boost the supply of pigeons and quail to Australian markets
  • The couple behind the venture sat there is strong demand for these products from capital cities
  • There are plans for the abattoir to be operational by Christmas

A pigeon and quail abattoir is being established near Rockhampton, the city better known as Australia’s beef capital.

The central Queensland couple behind the abattoir, Greg Emmert and Louise Busby, say the market is ripe for the plucking.

“I’d grown pigeons on and off for about 5 or 6 years and I was supplying another abattoir, and I thought it was a good opportunity,” Mr Emmert said.

“Especially with everyone getting food and fresh produce delivered to their door, we thought we could go into that, as well as the restaurants, and cover a lot of different options.

Asian staple on Aussie menus

Squab — a baby domestic pigeon — is a staple food in some cultures and is widely consumed in Asia, and the couple hope there will be export opportunities down the track.

“I’d love to be able to fly [produce] straight out of here to Singapore or to Hong Kong or wherever the demand is,” Mr Emmert said.

“At the moment, it’s unlimited by the imagination.”

Mr Emmert believes there is also a growing squab market in Australia.

“With [COVID-19] being around, a lot more people are cooking and experimenting at home,” he said.

Louise Busby stands in front of a tray of microgreens on a shelf. She is wearing a green shirt and glasses

Louise Busby launched her own microgreens business earlier this year and the leftover seed and stubble is used for pigeon feed.(

ABC Rural: Ashleigh Bagshaw

)

Microgreens sideline

Raising the birds on-farm, the couple produces additional feed for the pigeons from the microgreens business they also run.

“The farm will be fully vertically integrated,” Mr Emmert said. “We just need pigeon growers to supply us to keep us fully viable.

“If we don’t get a heap of rain or a rainy season, I would like to have it all up and functioning before Christmas,” he said.

Greg Emmert and Louise Busby standing in front of the foundations for their on-farm abattoir.

Greg Emmert and Louise Busby are laying down the foundations for their on-farm abattoir.(

ABC Rural: Ashleigh Bagshaw

)

Bred and flutter

The abattoir could also provide more opportunities for breeders in the region.

Stephen Huff recently gave up his business as a pigeon breeder.

He found it was unsustainable for him to continue transporting his birds to Thangool, near Biloela.

Mr Huff said an abattoir in the Rockhampton region would be another option.

“Well, it’ll mean for me if I decide to get back into it again that it’s a lot closer and will be more viable for me to do because that was a big cost for me, time and money and travelling 200 kilometres one way to Biloela and back,” Mr Huff said.

“Having an abattoir local here would also be good for creating jobs and give competition to the other abattoir which would be good for producers.”

Cross between two favourites

Mr Huff said there was a strong market for squab at restaurants in cities along the east coast, although the pandemic had decreased demand.

“As far as I know, they were going to restaurants in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane but, of course, [COVID-19] put a big dent in our sales and the production there,” he said.

But, he says, squab is a delicacy that can be enjoyed by everyone.

“I think people will get a taste for it — a lot of people like it and it’s something else to try,” Mr Huff said.

Posted , updated 

Bird abattoir to open in heart of beef country
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