Fight to meat demand

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Mondo Bulk Meats principal Robert Garreffa.
Camera IconMondo Bulk Meats principal Robert Garreffa. Credit: The West Australian, Daniel Wilkins

Mondo Bulk Meats principal Robert Garreffa says the wholesale beef market is in new territory as record high prices begin to take effect.

Mr Garreffa’s meat business, which added a store front in 2007, supplies more than 300 restaurants.

The business has been based in Osborne Park for 17 years.

But sky-high meat prices mean he has been busy adjusting his business plan to sell smaller beef cuts to the restaurant trade, with a greater focus on quality.

Australian cattle prices surged throughout 2020 as Eastern States beef producers, previously in drought, have been restocking their properties after substantial rainfall, driving saleyard prices to record highs.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealed the average retail beef price last year was $22.30/kg — 8 per cent higher than 2019.

Meat and Livestock Australia data also shows Australian cattle prices have been the highest in the world since June, thanks to climatic conditions and the global pandemic.

In WA, the Western Young Cattle Indicator smashed through the 900¢/kg barrier for the first time to reach a dizzying 924¢/kg on February 24.

Mr Garreffa said the high prices were causing restaurants to shake up their ordering strategy, with requests for smaller beef cuts and more of other meats.

“We are selling a lot more pork and chicken, and consumers are keen to explore game meats — kangaroo is very cheap,” Mr Garreffa said. “With beef, it’s a matter of educating our clients.”

However, Mr Garreffa said the public still wanted to treat themselves to a well-cooked steak and he believed the best entertainment was “going out for a good meal”.

“As long as we can ensure quality, the restaurant trade will continue to have repeat business,” he said.

“We are also advising our clients that they print menus that don’t cost too much.”

Mr Garreffa said he expected meat processors to have reduced supply to offer wholesale markets like his business.

He said the end of the JobKeeper payment this week could result in staff shortages at abattoirs, and reduced throughput.

He said another flow-on effect would be the further loss of staff in the food-service sector, with fewer restaurant staff to serve customers.

“What is helping the local trade now with a reasonable price point is the higher Australian dollar and the slowdown in the export trade,” he said.

“I expect this to change, though, and as exports get more established, we should see some drastic price rises for beef in the second half of this year.

“As we are seeing now, the trade will utilise smaller portions, causing demand to rise for products like brisket and mince, which will lift prices for these higher.”

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