Four daughters and one dream

Four daughters and one dream. On the farm, that means lots of teamwork but also tough discussions about the future. Karen Penfold and her eldest daughter Bonnie have opened up about their hugely successful brand, Four Daughters Beef. It’s a journey that’s taken them all the way from western Queensland to Wuhan, China (before most of us had ever heard of the place). It has been a bumpy road along the way with a few twists and turns. But they say, all worth it.

Live podcast recording with Karen and Bonnie at the 2023 NFF conference

Family affair

Having four girls hasn’t been all that noteworthy for the family themselves – it’s other people who find it quite a talking point.

“It seems to be our engaging factor with most people. For us, it’s just life. We had four children, and they happen to be girls,” laughs Karen.

The girls have always been part of farm life, but it wasn’t until a third-party brand consultant asked Karen what their point of difference was, that the penny dropped.

“I said, ‘I’ve got no idea. We all grow beef. I wouldn’t have a clue what my point of difference was’. She said, ‘Karen – you’ve got four curly red headed girls!’. It’s probably taken other people to bring that to our attention,” Karen explains.

Chance encounters at Beef Week Australia

All four daughters were behind a plan to export the family’s beef to China in 2018. It came about due to a chance encounter at Beef Week Australia.

“Dad isn’t the greatest socialiser, but his mates invited him to Beef Week and after a while he’d had enough so went to the bar and asked a Chinese lady with a table to herself if he could sit down,” says eldest daughter Bonnie.

They got to talking and Dan learnt Nisha Wang was visiting from Wuhan and was looking for premium Australian meat to export it back home. Nisha and her husband Frank Zhang visited the Penfold’s and learnt how beef is produced.

“They didn’t know where meat originated from so, we educated them about that. We also learnt from them about the selling of meat in China.”


Building a beef brand to export to China

The connection lead to Bonnie and her parents heading to Wuhan to learn about that side of the business. Before long, the Penfold’s were exporting their branded Four Daughters Beef products direct to Wuhan.

“The exporting journey was the most amazing experience. I have over the years, when we first started, described it as the journey from hell,” says Karen.

The supply chain challenges were immense – freight, logistics and containers took a lot of perseverance to overcome but the reward was worth it.

“It was going gangbusters. Too good to be true.”


When the world flipped upside down

Unfortunately, it was. Covid happened and the exporting journey ended. The Penfold’s had to think quickly about what to do with all their stock.

“‘Pivot’ was the buzz word at the time! So, all of a sudden, we had 700 Angus cattle in the feedlot with nowhere to go.”


Then came Pink Beef Boxes with the idea of using all the cuts of the animal, delivered direct to customers in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and regionally.

“It was incredible to meet customers. As farmers, we are so entrenched in what we do, we don’t get to see and experience the impact. We had a few people say we’d turned them back from being vegetarian because they knew we looked after the animals,” says Bonnie.

When that venture ended, there were hugs and tears on the girls’ final delivery run.

“The connection with the consumer was so much greater than what we’d ever considered. The power of that connection I think is actually immeasurable,” shares Karen.

Pink beef boxes ready to be delivered

Future plans

So, what does the future hold? The family is still working on finding a delivery method for the Pink Beef Boxes that won’t take up so much of the girls’ time. As well as working the farm, each daughter has a career – from teaching, to aviation, to accounting.

They would also love to expand on the exporting process, with recent meetings in Dubai. They say they’ve come too far to just let it go.

“Everyone is so attracted to the story. Then, they get on farm and see four redheads with someone on a motorbike, a mixer, a helicopter with dogs running around. They say they’ll do anything to get the brand. However, when it comes to money at the end of the day, that does matter,” says Karen.

Perhaps, the biggest conversation is one of succession with each daughter wanting an active role in the future of the farm. The Penfold’s are the first to admit, they don’t know how that will look, but they’re giving it a crack.

You can follow Four Daughters Beef on Facebook and Instagram.

Hear more stories like this by subscribing to the Telling Our Story podcast on iTunes (or wherever you listen to podcasts) and follow podcast host Angie Asimus on Instagram for more updates.

Angie Asimus

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