In this file:
· Red meat future bright, but reform vital: Mackay
· Does the red meat sector still need compulsory levies?
Red meat future bright, but reform vital: Mackay
James Nason, BEEF Central (Australia)
February 7, 2020
RED Meat Advisory Council chair Don Mackay has laid out a confident vision for the future of Australia’s red meat industry, one in which millennials readily queue to buy red meat because they understand it is good for them, good for their children, good for the environment and a wonderful eating experience.
But assuring that future requires breaking the cycle of endless attempts at agri-political restructure and reforming industry bodies into “a professional and powerful organising force”, he told a Rural Press Club of Queensland lunch in Brisbane on Thursday.
Despite constant and relentless attacks from those seeking to destroy animal agriculture, Mr Mackay said the industry should not lose sight of the very strong support it still enjoys from customers, community and government.
94 percent of Australian consumers consume, love and trust red meat. Of the small percentage of people who describe themselves vegetarians, two out of five still identify as occasional meat eaters.
‘Our best political assets’
Mr Mackay said the industry must get smarter about harnessing the power of these 23 plus million Australians who love red meat – a powerful consumer club who are “our best political assets and ultimate advocates”.
The industry needed the whole community, even those who don’t eat red meat, to better understand it to reduce the developing negativity.
As part of this process RMAC has developed an idustry affairs task force which is taking a whole supply chain approach to proactively engaging with consumers and the broader community, dealing with misinformation more aggressively than ever before, and engaging loyal consumers to help promote red meat.
Ensuring consumers are well informed about the environmental credentials of red meat production is also essential to this process, he said, through continuing to build evidence-based record showing that Australian livestock producers, who manage 74pc of the landmass, are part of the solution, not the problem.
This also included ensuring producers are fairly and properly rewarded for their role in managing Australia’s land mass in a sustainable way in future.
“Our environmental credentials that deliver Enviro-meat will be a significant reason that discerning consumers will seek to buy our products, not a reason to avoid it.”
Mr Mackay said his vision is that in 2030 red meat will be the first choice for millennials and their kids “because they know it is good for our health and our planet and they are willing to pay more for it”.
Key lessons from 50 years of red meat involvement
Mr Mackay’s address was anchored on key lessons learned about public and consumer perceptions of the red meat from his extensive experience in the industry.
From a farming and grazing family background in western NSW, Mr Mackay spent 30 years with Elders before serving for nine years as Managing Director of AACo, during which time the company introduced Wagyu cattle, re-listed on the ASX in 2001 and developed its beef brands; and eight years as Managing Director of Rangers Valley, one of Australia’s leading high-quality branded beef companies supplying branded grain-fed products to over 20 countries around the world.
Mr Mackay said Australia’s red meat industry has failed to adapt and modernise with many opposing organisations in civil society, and said it needed to be as good as the likes of WWF and Animals Australia in continually and effectively prosecuting its case to the community.
Climate change and weather events such as the recent Australian bushfires had become a touch point for activists in “proving” that agriculture is destroying our world: “It is an easy excuse for people to have one less red meat dinner and feel they are saving the planet.”
Valuable progress had been made, with the Australia’s red meat sector sending a clear signal to its markets by committing to have net zero emissions by 2030, which included a dedicated long-term research program to reduce methane generated emissions.
However, it was also clear the industry’s current approach was not cutting through: “we are being drowned out by the sheer volume of conflicting information and exaggeration as to the impacts of red meat production on the environment,” he said.
“We must deal with issues now. Left unchallenged it will inhibit our ability to capture the opportunities and accelerate a decline in support of our industry.”
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Does the red meat sector still need compulsory levies?
James Nason, BEEF Central (Australia)
February 7, 2020
While most of his address to the Rural Press Club of Queensland lunch in Brisbane on Thursday was focused on making a case for action on red meat industry reform, Don Mackay also ventured into some areas that audience members may not have been expecting.
One in particular was when he paused to pose a question that went far beyond the restructure to the heart of the levy debate itself.
That is, does the red meat sector still need compulsory levies?
Are they an essential part of the red meat industry’s future?
He noted that much of the political noise that dominates agripolitical activity is directly as a result of mandatory levies paid.
In the red meat sector alone 16 levies are paid to five key recipients – the Australian Meat Processor Corporation, Livecorp, Meat & Livestock Australia, Animal Health Australia and the National Residue Survey.
In addition, the Government stumps up co-investment to MLA each year for the use of MLA, AMPC and Livecorp.
In 2018-2019, Mr Mackay said, the total value of red meat levies was $132 million, with government co-investment totalling an additional $80 million or so.
A lot of money, but also a relatively small amount in the scheme of industry turning over $65 billion dollars in the same period.
The scale of levies paid per contributor varies considerably, from the the smallest hobby farmer paying a single $5 transaction levy to the biggest corporate agribusiness paying in excess of $1.5 million in mandatory levies in combined levy streams.
However no one can say exactly how much each levy payer pays, because the industry still does not know who pays the levies...