Red meat industry determined to keep products on plates in Australia and abroad

 

By Lara Webster, NSW Country Hour, ABC News Australia

Nov 22, 2019

 

The Australian red meat industry is facing challenging times, with attention growing around healthy diets, veganism and plant-based proteins.

 

So how do producers and processors keep their beef, sheep and goat meat on plates here and abroad?

 

How do they also increase the appetite for meat when some consumers are turning their backs due to environmental and welfare concerns?

 

Those issues dominated at this week's Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Red Meat Conference in Tamworth, where researchers, analysts and producers shared their insights into how the sector could move with a changing marketplace.

 

Provenance more than a fancy word

 

What now plays an even bigger role in selling Australian-grown meat is provenance; the origin of the animal on your plate.

 

It has become increasingly important to consumers to know the story of how an animal was produced, where it was produced, that it was treated humanely and came from an environmentally conscious operation.

 

Sharing the narrative of the products is becoming more difficult, particularly as veganism grows and animal activists become more vocal through protests and social media.

 

The Australian red meat industry is facing challenging times, with attention growing around healthy diets, veganism and plant-based proteins.

 

So how do producers and processors keep their beef, sheep and goat meat on plates here and abroad?

 

How do they also increase the appetite for meat when some consumers are turning their backs due to environmental and welfare concerns?

 

Those issues dominated at this week's Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Red Meat Conference in Tamworth, where researchers, analysts and producers shared their insights into how the sector could move with a changing marketplace.

 

Provenance more than a fancy word

 

What now plays an even bigger role in selling Australian-grown meat is provenance; the origin of the animal on your plate.

 

It has become increasingly important to consumers to know the story of how an animal was produced, where it was produced, that it was treated humanely and came from an environmentally conscious operation.

 

Sharing the narrative of the products is becoming more difficult, particularly as veganism grows and animal activists become more vocal through protests and social media.

 

One example of a new direction is the approach taken by Lachlan Graham, the chief executive of Argyle Food Group, an operation integrated from breeding, fattening and processing to sales, marketing and distribution.

 

Based on the South West Slopes of New South Wales, it supplies the domestic market, and exports to multiple markets around the world.

 

"We focus on value-adding and that actually gives us a platform to sell the story."

 

That story explains the animal's life from its birth to its arrival on the supermarket shelf.

 

"We have developed an on-farm livestock production software system that monitors every animal, where it came from, its cost basis and what diet it was on," Mr Graham said.

 

All of the data is available to a consumer when they scan a code using their phone.

 

What does the consumer think?

 

The most valuable market for Australian-grown red meat is in fact Australia, but the pressures from alternative proteins are increasing.

 

So to keep red meat sizzling in Aussie kitchens, MLA has invested in learning more about what consumers think, feel and want.

 

It includes what MLA says is world-first shopping research, with virtual reality used to see how customers behaved when they shopped for meat.

 

Along with wanting to know the provenance of meat they buy, domestic market manager Graeme Yardy said convenience was an important factor for consumers.

 

"We have to find those things that meet their needs, they want to know how great is this going to taste, what is the quality like, and how is this going to make their life easier."

 

Restaurants were another important factor in selling red meat and engaging consumers, he said.

 

"We want people like chefs to talk about the product and how they see it.

 

"They're like an independent body and they're the types of people that can really influence how people shop and dine."

 

Despite the conversations around better eating, animal welfare and alternative proteins, consumer data showed the number of households that ate beef (90 per cent) and lamb (76 per cent) last year was still high, MLA said.

 

Unlocking new markets ...

 

Opening up farms ...

 

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https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-11-23/how-the-red-meat-industry-is-trying-to-fight-vegan-plant-protein/11724016