The effect of veganism on the meat industry

According to industry research company IBISWorld, sales of vegan food products have soared over the past five years in Australia, with major food manufacturers and takeaway chains increasingly introducing new products to meet demand. However, as the cost of meat and international meat exports continue to rise, this surging demand for vegan products represents a growing threat to local demand for Australian meat and dairy.

Vegan food manufacturing soaring
According to IBISWorld research, demand for plant-based products has surged in recent years, with food manufacturers and takeaway chains in Australia constantly having to introduce new products to keep up.

“The quality of these products is also increasing at a rapid pace, with plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy foods continuously being launched. Unilever recently launched a plant-based alternative to its Magnum ice cream products, and popular food chains Hungry Jacks, Schnitz and Grill’d have all recently added plant-based options to their menus, in an attempt to take advantage of rising demand,” said IBISWorld Senior Industry Analyst, James Caldwell.

Rising cost of meat in Australia increasing demand for plant-based products
While demand for plant-based foods has soared over the past five years, so too has the price of meat products. This trend has weakened local demand for meat products, and forced the meat sector to turn to overseas markets to sustain growth.

“This surging demand for plant-based alternatives represents a growing threat to local demand for meat and dairy products, which will in turn affect the long-term viability of the Australian meat processing, beef cattle farming, cheese manufacturing, butter and dairy product manufacturing, and milk and cream processing industries. The Australian meat processing industry now generates over 60 per cent of its revenue from overseas, and we expect this number to rise over the next five years,” said Mr Caldwell.

Vegan product innovation
According to IBISWorld, several food-based innovations have allowed manufacturers to produce plant-based foods which mimic the taste and texture of meat products. Companies such as Beyond Meat and Funky Fields are now producing meat alternatives that are so realistic, they are being sold next to meat products in supermarkets. With the rise in the price of meat products over the past five years, we are now at a stage where plant-based alternatives are comparable to traditional meat in terms of both quality and price.

“The quality of these products is only expected to improve. Eric Schmidt, the director of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recently listed plant-based proteins as the most important trend in the technology industry, ahead of self-driving cars and 3D printing. As new technology allows the quality of these products to improve, so will demand,” said Mr Caldwell.

Environmental awareness affecting meat consumption
Australians are increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment, which IBISWorld analysts believe to be a factor behind the rise in demand for plant-based products. The meat and dairy sectors have been considered to have a large carbon footprint by environmental organisations, with research finding animal-based agriculture responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. A 2017 study by GRAIN also found that the world’s three largest meat firms produced more emissions in 2016 than the whole of France.

“In addition, raising animals for slaughter is a very water and land intensive process. According to the UN’s Priority Products and Materials report[3], both meat and dairy require more resources in terms of land and water, and produce more emissions per kilogram of food than plant-based alternatives,” said Caldwell.

“This rings particularly true for Australian consumers in light of the recent droughts in Queensland and New South Wales. Australia is the driest continent on earth, and is only expected to get drier as a result of climate change. Given this, consumers are increasingly turning to more sustainable food options,” Caldwell continued.

Rising health consciousness driving Australians to go vegan
Rising health consciousness is another major driving force behind the trend towards greater consumption of plant-based foods. For example, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogenic, placing it alongside asbestos and tobacco. As a result, domestic meat consumption has stagnated and is expected to fall over the next five years, reflecting increasing health consciousness among consumers.

In addition, dairy products have been linked to increased saturated fat intake. As obesity rates continue to rise among Australians, low-fat dairy alternatives are becoming more attractive to increasingly health conscious consumers. As a result, plant-based milk alternatives that are frothable are also increasingly popular in Australia’s coffee shops. Mr Caldwell believes that demand for these products will intensify as the quality of milk and cheese alternatives continues to improve.

“Australia is currently experiencing a rising fitness culture, which is encouraging consumers to reduce their meat intake, and to move to low calorie diets. Plant-based food manufacturers have been acutely aware of this trend, and have increasingly produced foods with few calories and low levels of saturated fat. This trend has significantly contributed to rising demand for plant-based foods,” said Caldwell.

The future of Australia’s meat and dairy sectors
According to IBISWorld, the number of people following a vegan diet in Australia is expected to continue rising over the next five years, bringing the country’s meat and dairy sectors under increasing strain. As demand for vegan products rises, food manufacturers are expected to increase the range and quality of their plant-based foods, driving further demand.

On the other hand, rising prices and stagnant domestic demand have driven Australia’s meat and dairy sectors to look overseas in search of revenue growth. Australia’s pristine environment, and reputation as a producer of high-quality food products have boosted exports of meat and dairy products over the past five years.

“However, concerns about their position in the domestic market haven’t been ignored. Meat and dairy sector lobby groups have recently called for the banning of plant-based food manufacturers using terms such as milk and cheese in their marketing,” said Caldwell.

Jason Strong appointed as managing director of Meat & Livestock Australia

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), the research, development and marketing service provider for the Australian red meat and livestock industry, has announced the appointment of Jason Strong as its managing director.

MLA chair Dr Michele Allan said the MLA Board unanimously supported the appointment.

“The MLA Board is extremely confident that Jason will make an outstanding contribution to MLA and will continue to foster the prosperity of our industry on behalf of the red meat producers we serve,” Allan said.

“He returns to MLA with comprehensive red meat and livestock experience, knowledge and connections – from the farm through to the end consumer – in both domestic and international markets.”

Allan said that Strong was a well-recognised and respected senior executive with extensive skills in commercial and industry business management and administration, supply chain development, meat science and grading, genetics and marketing.

“Importantly, Jason has significant on-farm experience meaning he has a unique understanding of what is expected from MLA on behalf of levy payers. He is focused with a passionate commitment for our industry,” Allan said.

“With a proven track record in building strong teams and developing business opportunities in a number of key markets and corporate environments, Jason was the standout candidate for this highly coveted position.”

Strong said was an exciting time to be returning to MLA, with many opportunities for the red meat industry.

“I am looking forward to working with MLA’s Board, staff, red meat producers and the broader industry to make certain we are best positioned to respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead,” Strong said.

“I want to ensure MLA’s current programs and projects continue to deliver value, but also identify and implement what is required for the future success of the red meat industry.”

Strong will commence in the role on Monday 1 April 2019. Most recently, Strong was CEO of Smithfield Cattle Company, a leading family owned feedlot and cattle supply business. Prior to this he was Managing Director with AA Co.

Strong has also represented industry as MLA’s regional manager in Europe and Russia. He was also responsible for the expansion of the Pfizer (now Zoetis) DNA technology business into new key international markets.

He is also the current Chair of the EU and UK Red Meat Market Access Taskforce and is the past Chair of the Australian Beef Industry Foundation. He also spent 17 years managing and coaching the Australian Inter Collegiate Meat Judging Team.

Strong said that his previous experience with MLA, both within the organisation and as an external partner, meant that he understood the workings and responsibilities of MLA’s industry research and marketing service.

“Since MLA’s formation 21 years ago, our industry organisations have evolved in response to our growing and dynamic industry. However, the responsibility for MLA to deliver on the current and planned programs and projects remains,” he said.

“While many red meat producers and others in the value chain are currently facing tough conditions, MLA will continue to do everything it can to support and enhance the success and global competitiveness of Australia’s red meat industry.”

Consultation open for new rules for exporting meat products

​People in the meat trade are being urged to have their say about new rules ​for exporting meat products.

The call comes from the Australian government after consultation on new draft export control rules for meat and meat products were opened on November 7.

The minister for agriculture David Littleproud said the export control rules will bring in modern, flexible and streamlined export laws for meat producers.

“I want to keep the doors open for Aussie meat exporters and this will give overseas markets greater confidence in our products,” said Littleproud.

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

“Our industry needs to be responsive to changing overseas market conditions without slugging our farmers.

“These rules will make exporting meat straightforward and cut duplication of paperwork and processes,” he said.

“They’ll clearly outline how meat should be prepared and if permits or certificates are required while maintaining the level of oversight expected by overseas markets.

“This will support access to export markets making sure our reputation for reliable, high-quality meat is upheld,” said Littleproud.

Existing export-related legislation is being streamlined and consolidated into improved legislation in the Export Control Bill 2017 and export control rules.

The Draft Export Control Rules 2020 – for meat and meat products are ready for consultation.

Stakeholders need to make written submissions by December 21, 2018.

Information sessions will be held during November and December. Other opportunities to comment will be available before the full package comes into effect.

More than $11.5 billion of Australian meat was exported in 2017-18.

It is expected that $12.2b will be exported in 2018-19.

The rules will replace the export control orders and parts of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act and the Australian Meat and Livestock industry regulations.

Goat roadshow gives business owners industry tips

Goat-meat producers, or anyone considering diversifying into goats, can access practical tips and tools for their businesses when Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) launches its inaugural National goat roadshow in November.

The roadshow will commence with two free producer workshops in Queensland at Barcaldine on November 8, and Charleville, on November 9.

Industry experts including MLA goat industry technical officer, Geoff Niethe, and MLA goat industry project manager, Julie Petty, will feature along with a panel of industry stakeholders, including local producers, goat processor Western Meat Exporters, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Petty said the roadshow will focus on improving on-farm practices and business management skills in the Australian goat industry, as well as profiling the range of new resources and tools produced by MLA.

READ: Sheep and goat traceability requirements increased

“We will also delve into the practical details of managing goats during the industry expert panel session, discussing animal health, biosecurity, selection of bucks, profitability and more,” she said.

“Providing goat-meat producers with the latest best practice information to help boost on-farm productivity and profitability is vital for the industry to help grow supply and secure its future.

“The Australian goat-meat industry in 2017 was worth over $257 million. Goat-meat production in Australia continues to steadily rise on the back of the export market,” said Petty.

“In 2017, Australian goat-meat production reached 31,414 tonnes carcase weight, with 90 per cent of that volume going to export. The US remains the key market for boxed goat-meat, accounting for 66 per cent of exports by volume in 2017,” she said.

The roadshow will further complement MLA’s suite of extension resources for goat-meat producers, which includes a new series of 10 best practice videos released in 2018.

The one-day workshops run from 9.30am to 2.30pm.

Dung beetles could help productivity in meat industry

Dung beetles are tipped to help the red meat industry become more productive and carbon neutral by 2030.

They’re already part of the sustainability recipe for one farming family with a diverse livestock enterprise.

Carly and Darren Noble run Jersey dairy cows, Merino, Dexter, Lowline and White Suffolk studs and a commercial Dexter herd producing boutique boxed beef on 80-hectare.

The high productivity is enabled by healthy soils and dung beetles, Meat and Livestock Australia explains.

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

The Nobles aim to run 1.5 cows and five sheep/ha while maintaining year-round groundcover supported by good soil management.

They blend age-old farming techniques and a willingness to think outside the square in their biodynamic, organic system.

On any given day, the couple can be found spreading homemade compost on pastures, monitoring manure for beetle activity and rotating livestock through ‘biozones’ (grazing areas of barley, grass and natural woodlands to promote natural foraging patterns).

Carly uses soil tests and photos to document soil condition, a program she started in 2006 when only 60 per cent of their first farm had groundcover and topsoil was just 5cm deep.

“We targeted paddocks with lime, manure and compost, have increased groundcover to 90 per cent of the farm and built topsoil to 30cm,” she said.

The compost is created from livestock and chook manure and shredded straw.

Crops are turned into green manure with slashing, spreading and scarifying.

Earth banks have been built to control overland flow and avoid soil erosion, and the pair have planted hawthorn hedges, an old English farming practice to create shelterbelts for livestock and biodiversity benefits.

Carly manages soils and pastures to optimise livestock nutrition.

“We have 25–30 natural species of pasture or conservation flora, as well as legume crops such as chicory, peas and beans, which provides access to a diverse diet,” she said.

The Noble’s livestock aren’t the only ones benefiting from dietary diversity.

When Carly first noticed dung beetles on their farms in 2002, she recorded four different species and an average of five to seven holes and 21 beetles per pile, in around 75 per cent of manure.

Each hole led to a 40cm deep tunnel, made by the beetles to carry organic matter down (thus storing carbon in the soil) and bring deeper soil up to aerate the soil and free up compacted areas.

Carly has now established a system to ‘farm’ dung beetles to promote their activity across the farm and tap into the benefits of improved plant growth and carbon storage in soils.

She uses harrows to break-up soil, moves 2.5kg piles of fresh manure to these ploughed areas, then transfers dung beetles to these plots to begin the process of building underground filtration of soil.

She monitors manure early in the morning and in the evening, when dung beetles are most active, and has seen beetle behaviour change based on the season and livestock diet.

“When cattle and sheep grazed hay and vetch over summer, there were five to six holes in each manure pile, whereas in April and May, when animals also received seaweed and brewer’s mash, activity increased to seven to eight holes per manure paddy,” she said.

“In our most recent monitoring, we have dung beetles active in 82 per cent of manure piles and there are 11–12 larvae holes per paddy,” said Carly.

Anecdotally, Carly has observed a benefit to livestock health, with reduced parasite burdens.

She said livestock are also reaching weight targets earlier, for example, 14-month-old Dexter steers now weigh 350kg – a target previously achieved at 18 months.

MLA is leading a large and unique collaborative research project to rear existing and introduce two new strains of dung beetles across southern Australia and WA.

The project involves collaboration between MLA, the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Charles Sturt University, University of Western Australia, University of New England, CSIRO, Landcare Research New Zealand, Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Dung Beetle Solutions Australia, and Warren Catchments Council, Leschenault Catchment Council and the Mingenew-Irwin Group.

 

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.

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