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Stories of Resilience - Gwydir Meats


Gwydir Meats is a country town butcher shop that has continued to proudly serve its Warialda community through hard times that have seen a number of other local businesses shut down, including the town’s cafés. With a population of just over 1,100, Warialda sits on the Gwydir Highway, in the Gwydir Shire Local Government area. Larry Mcpherson has been a butcher his whole life but has struggled to keep his business going through the dark times, resulting from drought, bushfires and Covid-19. He is deservedly proud to have survived and emerged almost debt free. It took innovation, in addition to resilience and sheer determination.

“I’ve been a butcher for 39 years. I started when I was 13. I’ve owned the business here at Gwydir Meats for seven years. I had another butcher shop in Inverell for 20 odd years, Wade Street Meats. I also work with my son, Philippe and I’ve employed a lot of people over the years,” he said.

"We buy local meats and support farmers here.
Our main thing is quality; that's how we compete
against Coles and Woolworths, all supermarkets"


Competing Through Quality Products

“We buy local meats and support local farmers here. Our main thing is quality; that’s how we compete against Coles and Woolworths, all supermarkets. The main thing we do is sausages, we’ve a big variety of sausages. Our sausages are a speciality. We deliver sausages to Inverell, 60kms away. Caravaners stop by for our sausages and their websites promotes the quality of meat they’ll find in Warialda. The furthest they take our sausages is above Cairns, at Palm Cove,” said Mr. Mcpherson.  “We also do value-added products, like cheese and bacon filos. We’re well known for our hams at Christmas time, smoked chooks, rolled and seasoned pork.”

"I just had to think outside of the box,
how to save money on certain things
Think about your ways of doing things.
You've got to think all the time"

At Gwydir Meats, they know their customer’s names, their stories and ask for updates or enquire what their day entails. It is a cut above ‘service with a smile’. “Customer service is the most important thing that we try to do,” Mr. Mcpherson said.


Being Impacted by Hard Times

Larry Mcpherson explained that the drought made it extremely difficult to source good quality meat. “Times were hard. The money wasn’t around and everyone was after donations off us. We donated, we helped the farmers. The council did try to help us out with that, providing farmers with vouchers.”

“Then we had the bushfires come in. After the fires, they came in for donations again to help the farmers to rebuild their fences and stuff like that. Straight after that, we get Covid. When it hit, everyone was panic buying. We had six weeks of constant work from say two o’clock in the morning until nine o’clock at night. It was so busy that we couldn’t even keep any meat in the cabinets. After that, she quietened off and we’ve been struggling ever since. Prices of meat have gone through the roof and customers have been having trouble paying for that amount of meat. So, we’re not selling as much as we used to. It’s been a big struggle. I’ve noticed in the butcher’s organisation that three to four butcher shops are closing down in New South Wales every week. We’re struggling big time.”

Mr. Mcpherson said that it is not just massive increases in meat prices that has impacted his bottom line. “The cost of everything, the freight, killing costs and the freight back; we were going backwards big time. I nearly went broke. I was on verge of closing the shop here.”


Thinking Outside The Box

A turning point for Larry Mcpherson was finding that he was not alone and that his business relationships could help see him through. “I had help with Thomas Foods International (the lamb processor), the wholesalers as well. They got in and helped me out,” he said.

An old school butcher, Mr. Mcpherson was accustomed to dressing a whole carcass but investigations revealed that sourcing boxed meat from processors was actually much cheaper.
“I just had to think outside of the box, how to save money on certain things and I’m coming out of it now, thank God. It’s been a hectic road. I had to do it myself and it’s been a hard slog and I’m just about out of it (debt). I’ll keep going from there.”

“Always cut costs wherever you can. If you can find a way to source your products at a cheaper price but still get quality, you must. Think about your ways of doing things. You’ve got to think all the time,” he said.

“I spent hours laying in bed thinking about how can I survive and doing my head in but I did it. You’ve got to think outside the box to keep yourself going. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask your fellow competitors how they’re going and how they are surviving. Everyone’s been helping everyone. I asked a lot of butchers and we all talk together and sorted the problem out and that’s how I survived.”

Watch Larry's Story

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