How keeping track of meat leads to longer shelf life

According to the OzHarvest website, the Australian Federal government said that food waste costs the Australian economy $20 billion a year. This includes putting five million tonnes of food in landfill, and the average household’s bin waste is made up of 35 per cent of food.

The same set of figures also state that more than 710,000 Australians rely of food relief every month, with four million people experiencing some form of food insecurity.

With that in mind, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and the University of Tasmania are working together and have developed a working model for vacuum-packed beef and sheep meats. This model is being used, with near to real-time collection of temperature data, to predict and manage customer experience of red meat products. Possibilities are also being explored to produce a visual sensor that will indicate when the shelf life of the product is near its end. It will hoped that this will avoid product waste with product no longer being discarded due to a doubtful history as the new packaging will better manage what is to be expected for the shelf life.

At the AUSPACK conference held in Melbourne, Dr Ian Jensen, the program manager, market access science and technology for Meat & Livestock Australia, explained the concept behind the new process.

“First of all, it’s about knowing the shelf life of our product,” he said. “We send product around the world and it takes a long time to get there. Fortunately, our product has a very long shelf life and we at MLA have done research and published studies showing that we get over 140 days of shelf life for beef, and we can get 90 days of shelf life for lamb.

“When we started this work on shelf life, one of our aims was to publish these studies because the industry knew that they got a lot longer shelf life than what the scientific literature was admitting. In many countries around the world, they actually have prescribed maximum shelf life. There’s nothing worse than sending your product to a market and discovering that maybe you only have two weeks to sell it because the mandatory shelf life expires.”

Jensen said that there are some countries in the world where Australia cannot sea freight vacuum-packed chilled meat because exporters cannot get it there within the time of the mandatory shelf life period stated by those countries. One of the aims of the collaboration between the university and MLA, was to publish these studies as a way of getting a greater understanding by regulators in other parts of the world and, hopefully, allowing Australian meat companies to put a more realistic shelf life on their products.

“The reasons why we have a long shelf life is that you need good meat quality. Often, that means having a pH that’s as low as possible for red meat, having good hygiene – ie. a low microbial count – as well as good vacuum packaging with low oxygen transmission and pulling a really good vacuum,” he said. “Last, you need low temperature storage. And, it’s this last factor that can be very variable after you have packed the product. As a meat processor, you can have looked after the first three items very effectively, and then you send your product out into the unknown. They need to have something that will look after the shelf life of the product after it leaves their door. So as far as knowing the shelf life of a product is concerned, Australia can deliver a good quality product – vacuum-packed chilled meat – around the world, regulations notwithstanding.”

The question that MLA and the university asked themselves, was, “How can processors predict the shelf life of that product?” They needed to collect data about the temperature in supply chains and make a prediction of shelf life. The meat industry recommends that processors keep a product just a little bit below 0˚C, so it uses -0.5˚C as its reference temperature. At this temperature, meat doesn’t freeze, but it is possible to get 160 days of shelf life. As the temperature gradually increases, the shorter the shelf life. In order to make sure things are running smooth, the temperature has to measured and monitored on a regular basis.

“There are a number of brands of monitor – you need to fit them in and stick them into the USB port on your laptop or computer to get the data out,” said Jensen. “The industry routinely collects data. They put a data logger into a container when they ship product, and if there’s any doubt about the temperature control, they can download the data logger and have an argument with their shipper or their insurance company.

“If we can get the data from the data logger, then we can put the time and temperature data into the spreadsheet. We then electronically enter what the approximate initial number of bacteria are in that product, and we get a graph. The graph presents the temperature over time and we’ve interpreted that the product as packed, it’s been shipped to a port in Australia, it’s gone on a boat somewhere, and been transhipped onto another ship. We can see, for example, that a second vessel might not have had quite as good control – maybe they forgot to plug it in for a little while or something like that, and it eventually arrived at port and went into the importer’s warehouse. On the graph, a green line shows the base of remaining shelf life. For lamb, it starts at 90 days, and so by the time it’s unpacked at the destination, there’s about 60 days shelf life remaining. It’s possible then to add to that predictions of what happens in that particular market if you know about the temperature of that product.”

The shelf life of the product can be predicted if the temperature history is known. The University of Tasmania developed that model, the MLA validated it with products shipped around the world and around Australia, and its confident that the model is working well. How does the MLA use this model to the manage the shelf life?

“We’re currently working in this area and I won’t say that we’ve solved everything, but we’re making some good headway in real time monitoring and getting information that supply chains could use to manage products,” said Jensen. “We’ve got these data loggers that are able to send their data to the cloud. Some of them have quite long battery life, so we can put them into products that are going to the other end of the world, the batteries will continue to work and data will continue to be sent to the cloud throughout the shelf life of the product. Once the boat leaves Australia, it kind of goes into radio silence until it gets within an hour or two of arriving in its port, but then, once it goes into the warehouse and the container is unpacked, then we’re getting the data. Once it’s at the destination, it’s unpacked, it’s in a truck, it reaches a restaurant or is placed in a cold room of a supermarket, and then we’re pretty much getting the data in real time. And so we’ve been able to follow that through and that allows you to analyse the data pretty well immediately and to know what’s going on.”

He cites an example of a shipment that went from South Australia to Melbourne to Dubai that had data loggers on board. The loggers measured temperature, humidity and air pressure. Jensen carried one of the loggers around with him on an overseas trip and he knew exactly when he took off and when he landed because of the change in pressure in the plane. The devices also measure exposure to light, the motion and tipping of the box, and acceleration if a box is dropped. He said users can usually tell when the logger has been taken out of the carton because the temperature goes from 2˚C to 22˚C in half an hour. “We did this work on several shipments and got this real-time monitoring of international supply chains,” said Jensen. “The loggers worked in the Middle East, throughout Southeast Asia, China, Europe and North America. So, there don’t seem to be too many limitations on communication. You get precise information, including temperature differences in the container from one end to the other – we saw this consistently across a number of containers.”

The reason real-time data is critical is because of the difference it can make in not only in extending its shelf life, but whether it even makes it to the shelf at all. A few years ago, MLA used a data logger that used the shelf life model. They could see that for a period of time the product was off power and got up to about 18˚C and the shelf life disappeared precipitously.

“If you get this data in real time – on a boat we can’t quite get it in real time yet – then it does allow you to take some action and phone the captain and say ‘Could you send somebody down to plug that container in please?’ In our recent trial, product was unloaded at the customer warehouse and then shipped to a number of retail establishments,” said Jensen. “In one example, the temperature of the product was around 1.5˚C to 2˚C, another around 3˚C, and another was sitting up at around 7˚C. And so, that will make a significant difference to the shelf life of the product. “In summary, we’ve worked at knowing the shelf life and looking at the long shelf life of our vacuum packed products, predicting the shelf life using models that are fairly simple and then moving to being able to manage our shelf life in the cold chain. Hopefully, this will lead to increasing the supply of higher quality meat to the world.”

Sydney team awarded $1m industry grant for new cattle vaccine

A team of scientists at the University of Sydney have been awarded a $1 million grant by Meat and Livestock Australia to fund new vaccine development for feedlot cattle.

Dr Kumudika de Silva, Dr Karren Plain and Dr Auriol Purdie from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science have been awarded a Meat and Livestock Australia  grant worth $1,084,942 for the research of alternatives to antimicrobials to keep livestock animals healthy.

“It’s wonderful to have our expertise acknowledged by industry in this way. Industry grants are very competitive, so we are very excited to have been awarded a grant of this magnitude,” said senior research fellow and project lead, de Silva.

Bovine respiratory disease
Funded in consultation with the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association, the project seeks to develop a novel vaccine to prevent against bovine respiratory disease – the most common cause of illness and death in Australian feedlot cattle.

“This grant will support research in both the development of a new vaccine and its potential application to a major disease that affects cattle and leads to reduced welfare and performance,” said Senior Research Fellow, Dr Karren Plain.

Cattle vaccine
Most vaccinations for livestock animals are currently given by injection, posing several challenges for feedlots, such as the need for refrigeration and the labour-intensive task of injecting each animal.

“We are hoping to develop a vaccine with properties that make it cheaper and easier to make, store and give to animals than most current vaccines,” said de Silva. “First, we need to understand how these animals will respond to a new vaccination method, but there is real potential for it to be used for many diseases that are important to the livestock industry.”

Working with industry on this project allows a two-way conversation in terms of the science and its application, said Dr Plain.

“We want to be able to make a difference to the health of animals in livestock production systems and also to assist producers in their efforts. It is a win-win.”

Eating quality cipher a key advantage for farm industry

The platform the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) program gives producers to fine-tune their operations in line with consumer demands represents a core advantage for the Australian red meat industry.

For central Queensland beef producer, Ian McCamley, it’s an advantage that will only be enhanced by the industry’s new Eating Quality Graded (EQG) cipher.

Introduced in August 2017, the EQG cipher relates exclusively to the eating quality of meat and disregards any reference to dentition.

For McCamley, its adoption reflects a concerted effort to shift the industry away from reliance on dentition as an indication of eating quality.

READ: Australian farming sector holding up, despite ongoing drought

“Historically, the first thing cattle were graded on was dentition. There was this industry-wide belief that the less teeth the animal had, the better the eating quality would be,” said McCamley.

“When MSA was being developed, the science quickly showed that the number of permanent incisors had no real relevance to eating quality, and as a result this indicator wasn’t included in the MSA program,” he said.

It was McCamley’s first-hand experience having cattle MSA graded from 2007 on, that initially raised a query around the relevance of dentition to eating quality.

He and his wife Kate run 7,000 head of cattle across their PCAS and MSA accredited operation north of Rolleston, Queensland, a third of which is also EU accredited.

Purchasing weaner steers, they grow them to a live weight of about 600kg before selling them into the premium priced grassfed market.

“Back then, getting an animal into Boning Group One was the holy grail as a producer. The processor we were selling to at the time was providing us with feedback on every beast – instead of just those with milk and two teeth,” said McCamley.

“What this revealed, was that the very first steer we ever got into Boning Group One had six teeth. Of course, this meant that despite passing the MSA and grassfed tests with flying colours, we were savagely discounted based on dentition.

“This got me started on a crusade to try and move the industry away from applying premiums and discounts based on an indicator that had no real relevance to eating quality. I didn’t think dentition was relevant, the scientists didn’t think it was relevant, and it was costing producers and the industry a lot of money,” he said.

“Meat and Livestock Australia have now done some great work quantifying what the reliance on dentition is costing the industry, but I suspect the cost is even higher than they concluded.

“A lot of producers simply won’t bother sending their cattle in to be graded if they fear they might have too many teeth, and some processors won’t MSA grade cattle with more than two or four teeth.

“There is unnecessary animal and human stress caused by mouthing large cattle for no good reason, and producers often send cattle in before they reach their optimum finish and full eating quality potential, just in case they cut too many teeth. Everyone loses, including the consumer,” said McCamley.

His role as the producer representative on the Beef Language Steering Committee, in 2014 and 2015, helped with the development and introduction of the EQG cipher.

“One of the key recommendations to come out of the language review was the introduction of a cipher based on eating quality, being MSA, with no reference to dentition. It was a major turning point,” he said.

With the industry having relied on dentition as an indicator of eating quality for so long, Ian was surprised at the pace of uptake of the EQG cipher.

“We probably underestimated the adaptability of some of the processors and brand owners, and we expected there to be more resistance than there has been.”

Despite this, he acknowledges that the benefits of the EQG cipher are still yet to fully reach producers.

“Right now, we’re still selling our cattle on the old ciphers and being discounted based on dentition, despite the processor selling a growing proportion of the beef based on the EQG cipher,” said McCamley.

“As producers, we’re not quite there yet, but I feel the change is coming. I’m optimistic that soon we’ll start to see price grids coming back to the producer that include the EQG cipher and don’t reference dentition,” he said.

Winter female cattle slaughter rises to highest level in three years

Dry conditions across Australia’s key production regions have driven winter female slaughter to levels not seen since the drought years of 2013–15.

From June to August national female slaughter was up 23 per cent on 2017 figures, at more than 1.1 million head, Meat and Livestock Australia reports.

While winter female slaughter saw a strong year-on-year increase in Queensland, 24 per cent, and NSW, 23 per cent, the sharpest rises were recorded in Victoria 31 per cent, and WA 37 per cent.

August marked the fourth successive month in which the proportion of national female slaughter surpassed 50 per cent of total kills, at 52 per cent.

READ: Lamb skins exports reach $377 million last year with price increasing

On a 12-month rolling average basis, the figure has risen to 49 per cent, indicating the continuation of a herd liquidation phase.

In August, male carcase weights rose 4kg year-on-year to 330kg/head, while female weights declined 13kg to 247kg/head.

The drop in female weights, combined with a higher proportion of female slaughter, saw the national average carcase weight for adult cattle fall 10kg year-on-year, to 286kg/head.

August beef production totalled 213,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt), which saw the year-to-date figure surpass 1.5 million tonnes cwt, up 8 per cent year-on-year.

For the month of August this year, national adult cattle slaughter totalled 743,000 head, up 10 per cent on August 2017.

Year-to-date slaughter also sits 10 per cent above 2017 levels, with the increase driven entirely by cows and heifers.

Nationally, year-to-August female slaughter was up 22 per cent on 2017, while male slaughter was down 1 per cent.

Difficult growing conditions resulted in a supply shortage of finished lambs during August.

Nationally, lamb slaughter totalled 1.59 million head for the month, down 19 per cent year-on-year.

Elevated slaughter for the first half of the year pushed year-to-date slaughter to a record 15.4 million head, up 5 per cent year-on-year.

US beef import prices decreasing, but Asian market remains strong

United States imported beef prices are continuously decreasing, driven by weaker prices for domestic grinding beef.

Meat and Livestock Australia reported that US end users appear well covered in the near-term and remain reluctant to accept higher Australian offerings.

Australian manufacturing beef continues to flow through into Asian markets where bids remain strong.

In the US market, from the 1st of October to the end of the year, ground beef prices seasonally record some downwards pressure as the northern hemisphere winter impacts burger sales and retailers start to feature holiday items more extensively.

READ: More than $152m in farm gate returns delivered through Meat Standards Australia

Ample supplies of cheap competing proteins and higher non-fed slaughter are up five per cent on a year ago, which will ensure the US market remains well supplied in the short-term.

Central American countries are offering grinding beef at a notable discount to Australian product and New Zealand supplies could begin to lift as the year closes out, further pressuring imported prices.

The US, Canada and Mexico came to a last-minute agreement in principle on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in late September, to be formally known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Under the new trade agreement, the beef supply between the respective nations will remain uninterrupted.

Over the last decade, about two million cattle a-year have been trucked from Canada and Mexico into US feedlots and abattoirs, representing about eight per cent of the US steer and heifer slaughter.

Boxed beef has been regularly traded in both directions across both borders.

In terms of agriculture, the US has been granted improved access to Canada’s dairy, chicken, turkey, and egg markets as a result of the renegotiation.

Meat Standards Australia delivers more than $152m in farm gate returns

The Meat Standards Australia (MSA) program is estimated to have delivered $152 million in additional farm gate returns in 2017-18, according to the latest data contained in the MSA annual outcomes report.

The new data also shows more than 3.1 million cattle and 6.1m sheep processed through the MSA program in 2017-18.

For cattle, this represented 43 per cent of the national adult cattle slaughter, an increase of 3 per cent on the 2016-17 financial year.

The number of sheep following MSA pathways in 2017-18, represented 26 per cent of the national lamb slaughter.

READ: Sheep and goat traceability requirements increased

Seventy-four per cent of those lambs supplyed brands underpinned by MSA.

MSA program manager Sarah Strachan said latest figures showed the MSA program continued to grow and strengthen, providing strong farm gate returns.

“This year marks 20 years since this world-leading eating quality program was released to industry, and adoption rates continue to rise with more than 5,000 new cattle and/or sheep producers becoming registered to supply livestock through the MSA program in the past financial year,” she said.

“Producers continue to also embrace carcase feedback, with a 32 per cent increase in the number of beef producers accessing reports and benchmarking tools on myMSA in 2017-18.

“The uptake in accessing carcase feedback is reflected in outstanding compliance to MSA minimum requirements, which was maintained at 94 per cent across all feed types, nationally, and the average MSA Index for compliant carcases improved by 0.19 Index points to 57.78,” said Strachan.

Sixteen new brands became MSA-licensed to underpin their brands with the independent endorsement of eating quality, taking the total number of MSA-licensed brands to 172.

Almost 3,000 producers received MSA education through more than 81 workshops or information sessions, including the MSA Excellence in Eating Quality Awards series, which reached more than 500 producers at six forums across the country.

Strachan said looking towards 2020, MSA had its sights set firmly on ensuring all cattle in Australia will be eligible for MSA grading and have their eating quality accurately described.

“The goal is for more than 50 per cent of the national cattle slaughter and 43 per cent of the lamb slaughter being MSA graded,” she said.

“At the same time we are looking for ways to help producers improve their compliance rates, their MSA index values and supporting brand owners to fully embrace eating quality principles.

“These goals are driving the focus for investments in new eating quality research and striving to extract greater value from the MSA program for the whole supply chain,” said Strachan.

MSA is focused on ensuring the program continues to grow and deliver benefits to its more than 50,000 registered producers, 53 MSA processors, 172 brands, and 3,681 end user outlets, by consistently meeting consumers’ expectation for beef and sheepmeat eating quality, she said.

State breakdown (MSA proportion of state slaughter):

–          New South Wales represented 62 per cent of MSA cattle and 17 per cent of MSA sheep

–          Queensland represented 39 per cent of MSA cattle

–          South Australia represented 20 per cent of MSA cattle and 55 per cent of MSA sheep

–          Tasmania represented 58 per cent of MSA cattle and 14 per cent of MSA sheep

–          Victoria represented 20 per cent of MSA cattle and 33 per cent of MSA sheep.

–          Western Australia represented 56 per cent of MSA cattle and 33 per cent of sheep.


Cattle prices trend down as drought conditions increase pressure in market

Cattle prices have generally trended down during 2018, but some states have been more stable than others, Meat and Livestock Australia has reported.

In the eastern states, young cattle have struggled to find consistent support in the market as the poor season has unfolded, with the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) on a downward trajectory for the most part of 2018.

EYCI category cattle in Queensland have seen the biggest decrease for the year, down 99¢/kg carcase weight (cwt) from the beginning of 2018 to the 16th of September.

NSW has declined 61¢/kg cwt and prices in Victoria have remained relatively stable easing 10¢/kg cwt.

READ: Sheep and cattle slaughter increases to reduce stock numbers during drought

WA has benefited from a more typical season, especially in the south with prices down only 8¢/kg cwt for the year.

Young cattle in the west are now trading at a considerable premium through the yards, with a 52¢/kg cwt premium over NSW and 57¢/kg cwt above Victorian prices.

The figures below are for the year-to-date – to the 16th September.
NSW – down 61¢ to 504¢/kg cwt
Queensland – down 99¢ to 482¢/kg cwt
Victoria – down 10¢ to 499¢/kg cwt
WA – down 8¢ to 556¢/kg cwt

Similar to young cattle, cow prices have been under pressure through most of 2018.

Poor conditions coming in to winter and minimal rain during that time contributed to low restocker competition and consequently, lower prices.

However, over the last month, the medium cow indicator has started to see a bit of a resurgence as spring brings some optimism.

NSW and Queensland have seen the best of the increases recently – the NSW medium cow indicator rose 79¢ from the start of August to average 441¢.

Queensland increased 81¢ to 460¢/kg cwt. Victoria has also increased, although not to the same extent, up 47¢/kg cwt.

The cow price differential for 2018 is WA, where the indicator remained most stable and recorded a slight upwards trend throughout the year.

This is partly due to its low starting point, a 40¢ discount to the eastern states, at 364¢/kg cwt in January.

The medium cow indicator for WA was 432¢, only 9¢ below NSW prices and a 24¢/kg cwt premium over Victoria.

The figures below are for the year-to-date – to the 18th September.
NSW – up 20¢ to 441¢/kg cwt
QLD – up 34¢ to 460¢/kg cwt
Victoria – up 2¢ to 408¢/kg cwt
WA – up 68¢ to 432¢/kg cwt

Red meat exports have hit a high of $13.7 billion, superseding last year’s figures

In the year ending June 2018, Australian red meat, offal and livestock exports reached $13.78 billion.

This is up 13 per cent year-on-year and largely underpinned by an increase in cattle turn-off and higher smallstock prices, according to figures from Meat and Livestock Australia.

Beef export value didn’t surpass the drought years of 2014–2016, but it was the third highest financial year on record at $7.96b.

With lamb prices smashing records in recent months, lamb exports reached a record $2.27b, and mutton followed suit at $1.02b.

READ: Australia’s sheepmeat exports to China saw the largest ever start to the year

Combined sheep and beef offal exports broke records at $778 million, while live cattle and sheep exports accounted for significant portions, at $1.268m and $259m respectively.

Japan, the US, Korea and China continued to underpin the value of beef exports, with the four largest markets accounting for 75 per cent of export value.

Similarly, the Middle East and North Africa, the US and China accounted for 66 per cent of sheep meat export value.

Live cattle exports remain focused on Southeast Asia, reflecting the level of development across key markets and proximity to northern Australia, while sheep exports remain concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa, underpinned by demand for religious slaughter.

National cattle slaughter has increased, due to challenging drought conditions.

National cattle slaughter for July totalled just over 712,000 head, bringing the year-to-date total to 4.5 million head, up 21 per cent year-on-year.

Female slaughter has continued to be a driving force in this increase, making up 54 per cent of the national kill in July, up five percentage points on July 2017.

The 12-month rolling average for July was 48 per cent.

Typically, the Australian cattle herd is considered to be in a contraction phase when the proportion of female slaughter exceeds 47 per cent of total slaughter over a 12-month rolling average.


New research helps progress development of vaccine for ovine footrot

Researchers have made important progress towards developing a new vaccine for ovine footrot, a serious disease in sheep that causes severe economic loss, suffering due to lameness and disruption to normal farm operations.

Footrot is an infectious and contagious disease caused by the bacteria, Dichelobacter nodosus, which are divided into a number of strains.

An outbreak of footrot may involve one or several strains.

In a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) funded collaborative research project between Monash University and the University of Sydney, reverse vaccinology, an approach successfully applied in human medicine, was employed to identify five potential footrot vaccine antigen candidates.

READ: Sheep counting app counts and records farmers’ stock numbers

MLA health welfare and biosecurity program manager Dr Johann Schröder said one of the problems with conventional footrot vaccines is that there are 10 variants of the major protective antigen.

“That means if you vaccinate against one strain of the bacterium that causes footrot, it doesn’t protect the sheep against the other nine. What we’re trying to develop is a vaccine that is cross-protective – one that will work against all of the causative bacteria,” said Schröder.

Professor Julian Rood from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute said the concept was based on sequencing the complete genome of the causative organism and using that sequence to identify its proteins.

“From 1,300 potential proteins, we narrowed the list down to about 90 with potential as vaccine antigens,” said Rood.

Proteins were purified using high-throughput technology and tested in pen-and-field vaccination trials for their ability to protect sheep against footrot.

The collaboration included Monash BDI’s Dr Ruth Kennan and University of Sydney’s Dr Om Dhungyel and Professor Richard Whittington.

“Monash BDI has done the genomic and protein work, while the University of Sydney has done the vaccine work, and the collaboration has been very productive,” said Rood.

“In the process of finding potential vaccine candidates, our colleagues at the University of Sydney have refined a field-based testing system.

“An important development was a reproducible, irrigated, pasture-based, natural infection model. It’s been used to test the effectiveness of vaccines in the field,” said Rood.

Having identified five potential vaccine antigen candidates, the research team hopes to move on to the next step shortly, which involves further testing and refinement of vaccine formulations.

Meat and Livestock Australia launches online platform about Australian meat production

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has launched a new online platform that provides consumers with an open and trusted source of information about the production of beef, sheep and goat meat in Australia.

The platform, Good Meat, demonstrates how Australian red meat is produced sustainably, in high welfare systems and is an important part of a healthy balanced diet.

Good Meat is also home to a range of educational resources including study guides, classroom posters, lesson and activity sheets, virtual farm visits, digital lessons and online board games.

MLA managing director Richard Norton said while the vast majority of consumers in metropolitan centres across Australia were confident in the practices of the red meat industry, Good Meat spoke directly to those who sought more information about production systems.

READ: Growing trade and investment at Beef Australia 2018

“The consumer is king in our industry and we understand that community trust is integral to a sustainable and prosperous industry,” said Norton.

“Good Meat provides an engaging platform for red meat producers to share their story and demonstrate their commitment to best practice and continual improvement. It emphasises the high standards already in practice while reinforcing the industry’s on-going commitment to animal welfare and responsible environment management,” he said.

Recent research for MLA shows that about 1 in 5 meat eaters have a good understanding of the Australian beef and lamb industry and there are now almost 20 per cent fewer Australians from urban centres visiting cattle or sheep farms annually compared to eight years ago.

However, the same research reveals consumers’ appetite to learn more about food production, with more than 50 per cent interested in how Australian farmers produce beef and lamb.

“Good Meat is built on MLA’s consumer insights and data. It is a direct response to the increasing interest consumers have in the provenance of their food and how it is produced,” said Norton.

“Good Meat will also prove an important tool for those producers looking for resources to help share their story, promote what they do, build consumer confidence and challenge misconceptions,” he said.

Good Meat has been developed in consultation with the red meat industry.

Australian beef exports have increased in key markets such as Japan and China

Australian beef exports have increased in key markets as there is a demand for Australian products.

Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) market intelligence manager, Scott Tolmie, said Australian beef exports were up 13 per cent for the year-to-date (January to June) with key markets, such as Japan, Korea and China, recording double digit growth.

“Australian beef exports are now forecast to increase 10 per cent in 2018, to 1.11 million tonnes shipped weight,” he said.

Live cattle exports have also increased over the past six months – lifting 23 per cent year-on-year to 487,000 head, led by increased throughput out of Darwin.

READ: NSW government offers more funding for drought-stricken farmers

Seasonal conditions during spring would play a critical role in how the cattle market tracked, with any improvement to pasture conditions likely to see demand for young cattle and females increase, Tolmie said.

The news of increased exports comes at a time where farmers across Australia are dealing with ongoing drought conditions.

Ongoing dry weather, combined with a surge in female turn-off, has seen Australian cattle slaughter forecasts revised upwards to 7.8 million head for 2018, 9 per cent higher than the 2017 total, according to MLA cattle industry projections mid-year update.

For the first five months of 2018, Australian adult cattle slaughter totalled 3.1 million head – an increase of 11 per cent, or 300,000 head, from the same period last year. But this was still 7 per cent below the five-year average.

Tolmie said female cattle had largely driven the year-on-year increase, with a 21 per cent rise in the number of cows and heifers processed, and a modest 2 per cent lift in male cattle slaughter.

“Female cattle slaughter in May almost reached 403,200 head – the highest monthly volume since July 2015,” he said.

“Persistent dry conditions have seen the average national adult carcase weight forecast for the 2018 calendar year revised downwards, to 292kg/head. However, the upwards revision to slaughter more than outweighs the expected drop in carcase weights, with beef production for 2018 now forecast to increase 7 per cent to 2.3 million tonnes carcase weight,” said Tolmie.

While slaughter levels were expected to remain elevated, and a modest contraction in the national herd is forecast, the inundation of supply, and subsequent price reaction which the industry experienced in 2013-2015 was not anticipated to repeat itself, he said.

“The weight of supply placed some pressure on prices throughout autumn, particularly for young cattle. However, falls could have been much more pronounced if not for strong growth in some key Asian export markets,” said Tolmie.

“Demand in these markets has held firm in the face of increased product coming from both Australia and the United States. The flow-on for producers domestically has been continued price-support for finished cattle, cows and feeder suitable cattle,” he said.