Maugers is a local institution. Its locally produced 100 per cent grass-fed beef and lamb cuts and famous beef pies are renowned throughout the Highlands. We ask John Mauger about raising cattle, underrated cuts and why butchers always have a twinkle in their eye.
Q: Which came first: the butcher stores or the raising your own cattle on the farm?
A: My dad Joe Mauger bought the first farm near Robertson in the 1940s, which he paid for with produce grown on a 10 acre cabbage patch in 12 months. He bought and sold local farms to increase his commercial cattle business over the next 30 years.
Q: How long has there been a Maugers at Burrawang, and what was the impetus behind opening in Moss Vale?
A: Dad opened Maugers at Burrawang in 1972 when cattle prices slumped. I started there in 1976 as a 16-year-old and became manager in 1978 when Dad had a heart attack and could no longer work in the shop but he continued to work on the farm over another 25 years. We opened the shop in Moss Vale in 2014 to take over from the only remaining butcher in Moss Vale, which was closing down, and to ensure locals could continue to buy our locally grown grass fed meat.
Q: Does all Maugers meat come from stock you raise?
A: We buy quality cattle and lambs from local sales and grow and fatten them on grass at our two family farms. We also sell free range pork and chicken. I control the farm process myself. I drench for worms and lice, handle stock using passive techniques, and rotate stock from paddock to paddock weekly. I select the finished animals and deliver them personally to abattoirs. I’m not a one breed person. I believe many breeds can have good meat. I do favour Angus, Hereford and Murray Grey. Once back from the abattoirs, our procedures are different from most. I can’t tell you all our secrets but suffice to say ‘ageing’ the meat is one significant part.
Q: Tell me a bit about your paddock to plate philosophy. Feel free to drop in any chefs or restaurants you supply to…
A: We are third generation butchers as our son Mat now controls the butcher shops. We have more than 40 years experience of farming, processing and butchery. My wife Vicki and I also ran a catering business for 30 years. We have much regard for the ‘low and slow’ process of cooking. I’ve never been much of a name dropper but we supply to seven hotels in the area and restaurants in all our towns and villages, as well as Nowra and Wollongong.
Q: With Mat now running the shops are there occasions that old bull/young bull scenario arises?
A: No. Mat came to the shop after completing a refrigeration/air con apprenticeship and we worked together for five years until Vicki and I thought he was ready. I was physically worn out and mentally strained so the time was definitely right. Since Mat came on board we’ve doubled our output. We are a fair size small business, employing 14 people from the local area, so we try to share the load and help each other out when needed.
Q: What is the most underrated cut of beef you sell?
A: Blade is underrated, and can be cooked in any way. It was once popular, not so much now though.
Q: Do you get fed up with people mispronouncing your name?
A: We pronounce Mauger as Major. We come from Jersey, part of the British Isles and during the war our name sounded very German, hence the change.
Q: And finally, do you agree butchers have a reputation of having a bit of a twinkle in their eye?
A: Butchers have a twinkle in their eye because they know quality when they see it.