Beef industry urged to focus on customer as price rises bite

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Harvest Road general manager of livestock Kim McDougall, Coles Group senior beef procurement manager Stephen Rennie, and Porongurup Prime Beef principal Robert Smith.
Camera IconHarvest Road general manager of livestock Kim McDougall, Coles Group senior beef procurement manager Stephen Rennie, and Porongurup Prime Beef principal Robert Smith. Credit: Countryman

Go figure, with domestic beef consumption falling on the back of drought-stricken rising retail prices, there is urgency in understanding what the customer wants.

This was the consensus at the Harvey Beef Gate 2 Plate Challenge field day held last week at Willyung Farms, at Albany, where 220 visitors received industry updates.

Meat and Livestock Australia RD & A value chain program manager David Beatty said retail beef prices had sharply increased since 2014 from $15/kg to just over $19/kg in 2018, while consumption had dropped from 32kg to near 25kg/person annually.

“Australian domestic beef consumption still remains one of the largest per capital globally,” he said.

Mr Beatty reminded field day visitors that 70 per cent of Australian beef products were exported and that weighed heavily on the industry understanding those foreign markets if producers are to remain “export successful”.

Harvest Road general manager of livestock Kim McDougall reiterated Harvey Beef’s involvement in the Challenge as one of education.

From the wise words at the field day forum, to the experience producers gained in the feedlot competition, Mr McDougall also emphasised the very important element of student involvement.

“Harvey Beef wants to ensure WA’s future making sure everyone in the cattle industry is viable by working together to get an outcome,” he said.

“We need to drive efficiency, consistency and volume, while having uniformity of prices as a priority.”

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Mr McDougall said industry success also required brand recognition and animal welfare adaptations, “which is at the top of consumers’ minds”.

“Harvey Beef recognises that WA has an underdeveloped export market which has huge opportunities in the 100-day cattle finishing space,” he said.

Coles Group senior beef procurement manager Stephen Rennie said consumers required supermarkets to keep beef prices under control.

“Today’s consumers want a consistent eating quality experience and they want to know the provenance of food products so they can make a more informed buying decision,” he said.

In support of The Regional Men’s Health Initiative, Challenge co-ordinator Sheena Smith’s family donated a Sussex cross Angus steer to be auctioned, with Mr McDougall securing it for $2400 on behalf of Coles.

Community educator of RMHI Terry Melrose said the appreciative funding would be directed at the “Talk to a Mate” project.

On day two, during the School Challenge, WA College of Agriculture, Denmark, were overall team winners.

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