Producers called to meet meat challenge

Reports by Kate PollardCountryman

Sheep and cattle producers at the Southern Meat Profit Day last week were challenged to help the red meat industry grow to meet the future.

Over eight hours, more than 320 livestock producers from across the south, along with consultants, stock agents and agribusiness leaders, listened to speakers on the future of the industry.

Meat and Livestock Australia regional manager Lachlan Bowtell said WA producers needed to rebuild numbers from 2.1 million cattle and an estimated 13.7 million sheep.

He said industry needed to meet processor demand and promote lamb and beef overseas where demand for protein was growing.

Over the next three years, Mr Bowtell said MLA would focus on marketing activities that increased consumer demand using campaigns featuring the enjoyment, eating quality and nutritional benefits of red meat.

The producer-owned company has a bold aim of creating new business opportunities in emerging markets by working with exporters to win at least 20 major accounts across retail food and service.

"At the moment, the number one market for Australian beef and lamb is the domestic market and overseas, where we are seen as a reliable supplier with a range of product," Mr Bowtell said.

The challenge now was for lamb, which is expensive for restaurant menus, to diversify the carcase and provide new menu ideas for chefs.

Mr Bowtell also said Meat Standards Australia was getting an overhaul with a four and five-star marketing program for beef in development for retail service outlets.

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman believes WA's red meat industry is well placed to meet rising demand from overseas consumers wanting protein and live export will continue to be integral for WA producers.

With the value of the mixed farming enterprise realised, Mr Redman said there was a huge change to improve farm performance by learning from top performers.

The value of research and development was still important but Mr Redman said greater value and importance was being put on groups like Southern Dirt, which organised the day, to help convert knowledge and understanding to producers on the ground.

Wellard managing director Steve Meerwald told the crowd there was enormous potential in new markets with reasonable wealth or large populations, such as Iran, Iraq, China, North Africa, Egypt and Libya.

"The outcomes out of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System is something we should all be proud of," Mr Meerwald said.

But it had been a difficult process.

If it was run under a full ISO accreditation, based on ESCAS standards, Mr Meerwald said some of the regulatory burden felt by exporters and government would be removed.

Capping off the day, Southern Dirt chairwoman Lynley Anderson, who farms in Kojonup, said the red meat industry would continue to grow and 'meat' the future.

"On behalf of Southern Dirt and the Meat Profit Day committee, we challenge you to take up at least one piece of information or idea from today," Ms Anderson said.

"Follow it up, investigate it, consider its application for your enterprise. Try it and share the results with friends."

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