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AusMeats White Paper

In the last week I was interested to read MLA CEO Richard Norton’s statements – a breath of fresh air? Let’s hope so.

Richard Norton states, “It appears that producers don’t feel AusMeat is representing the producer part of the industry well enough regarding trim and assessment prior to scales and of course the language itself.” Richard goes on to say, “I have committed to levy payers that AusMeat needs to become more open and transparent and that AusMeat has also got to accept that things will have to change.”

Richard says that he’s been to 2 board meetings and he thinks AusMeat is working through the issues.

Is Richard is hoping to change the thinking and culture of AusMeat? I wish him luck. When I look at the faces of people sitting around the board table, I think if these people are going to change, such change will take time.

Self-interest is an extremely big motivator and AusMeat seemingly has made huge amounts of money for processors and retailers whilst costing the producers huge amounts of money. Butt shape, trim before the scales, language and a multitude of other factors make sure producers are on the receiving end of poor rules.

The White Paper being prepared, at this stage, leaves me with little faith that we are going to see revolutionary change. Perhaps I’m wrong but as stated before certain parties make a fortune from the present rules and will fight tooth and nail to retain such a profitable system.  Self-regulation simply doesn’t work with money involved.

One only has to look at the present row over meat inspectors where the Federal government would like to hand the running of health inspectors to a private authority rather than remain government run. Imagine if the processors came forward with a system that will allow them to employ their own meat inspectors (unthinkable – maybe not)? The question must be asked, if an employee of a meat company is told by his employer to interpret rules the way the company wanted them interpreted rather than the way they were intended to be interpreted in order to maximise advantage and manipulate pricing outcomes . Imagine an employee standing up and telling his boss he will interpret the rules as it suits him. It would be disastrous – rather like putting a fox in charge of the hen house. Look at the US where the government is responsible for paying independent USDA graders – the average dressing of a beast is 64% in US but in Australia 53% if lucky. Would the percentage drop lower if processors employed their own meat inspectors?

Perhaps MLA may look at using levy funds to contribute towards independent unannounced audits.

When MLA provided MSA graders very few people would adopt MSA. Not until MLA graders were removed and company graders actually were accepted to do the grading on the company’s behalf was the uptake of MSA increased. Most people in the know accept the fact that when MLA agreed to their graders’ removal, to be replaced by company employed graders, this was the first nail in the coffin of what once was a wonderful system.

The fact is that whilst producers are treated like Third World peasants the whole beef industry is in peril. Without viable producers the industry associated directly or indirectly with beef, and the communities these industries support, will collapse.

It is my sincere hope that Richard Norton can affect meaningful change.  If Minister Joyce will bring in the seven recommendations recommended by the Senate then producers may finally get a fair deal.

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