When Dandaragan farmers David and Joan Cook made the decision in 2000 to begin farming organically, quite a few eyebrows were raised locally.

The home farm, Noondel, had been in the Cook family since the 1870s and the Cooks had always been conventional farmers, raising cattle and sheep and cropping.

But by the 1990s the couple had begun to question the wisdom of continuing that way.

They felt they were fighting a losing battle with more and more chemicals needed to control weeds and parasites. They were also increasingly concerned about the number of their friends and neighbours getting ill. They began to look for alternatives and finally in 2000 declared themselves organic, founding the brand Dandaragan Organic Beef. They no longer use pesticides, artificial fertilisers, hormones or antibiotics.

Daughter and manager Tracey Cook, whose husband Richard Cooper also works in the business, says that questions were certainly asked when her father first ripped up a pasture paddock to plant perennial summer grasses.

The family has 2954ha in the home farm and a second property closer to the coast. Now half the properties are covered in perennial grasses, providing year-round feed.

“We usually get some summer rain but even a heavy morning dew will have enough water to keep the summer grasses kicking along,” Tracey Cook said.

Tracey Cook, husband Richard Cooper and sons Oliverand Wesley. Picture: Caro Telfer

They run Angus, Murray Greys and Square Meaters, a compact Australian breed with high meat yield. The cattle for market are chosen once a week and are usually about two years old.

They are taken to an abattoir in Gingin, about 40 minutes away.

In the very beginning Dandaragan Organic Beef was ahead of the market. There was limited demand for certified organic beef and they could only find two butchers who wanted to take the meat. So for a few years David and Joan packed the beef into family packs which they loaded into a freezer trailer and delivered around Perth.

But word spread and butchers started calling and they now have stockists across the State. As WA’s largest producer of certified organic beef, they also sell to restaurants through Mondo Butchers. Home delivery of bulk orders of the grass-fed beef is also available.

It is proudly a nose-to-tail operation, so an organic pet food supplier is also among the stockists.

“We keep some offal that the butchers do not take and we have people who dehydrate the liver so we do organic liver treats,” Cook said. “Pretty much everything gets used. Bones go into bone broth these days.

“That is very much our ethos: it shows the greatest respect to the animal if you can use it all up.”

She said they joined Buy West Eat Best when Mondo wanted to do some cryovac packaging to showcase the brand more.

“Putting the Buy West Eat Best sticker on the packs was a way of differentiating our product from east coast brands. It is from one farm, one family and WA grown.”

Re: Pam Brown The West Australian Monday, 8 October 2018