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AusMeats – Beef Language???

The Australian beef language White Paper has now been released – 37 pages.

One of the first things I read in this White Paper is that it is underpinned by several key principles.

The consumer is a critical part of the value chain and central to the purpose of any beef language. A modern beef language should ultimately empower the consumer by relying on critical descriptors which will assist them to make a value judgement about the beef meal being purchased.

Who could disagree? The fact is that the language being used in retail is nothing short of pathetic. An example: on a trip to the butcher I wanted to buy a PR rump for a casserole, which I managed to buy. The interesting part to me was when he pulled a  PR rump out for me he decided to refill his window display and he pulled another PR rump from the same box for his window, which was marked prime rump. To me PR rump is not prime rump, however AusMeat disagree, saying that 0-7 teeth up to 42 months is PRIME BEEF.

Though the White Paper goes into great detail in talking about motherhood statements I can’t see how my butcher will be obliged to tell everybody that he is buying a second or third-rate product and selling it as a top-class product. I’ve always said 2 things drive consumers buying habits one is price and the second is consistency. With the way our language is structured at present, no wonder consumption of beef is dropping.

The most concerning part is that I can’t find anything in the White Paper that will address these problems, despite the fact that the paper talks about the expectations of consumers as rising in relation to quality and integrity.

Another quote: “in our industry, true competitive advantage lies in the quality and integrity of its products throughout the whole supply chain. We must identify and implement industry systems that can objectively measure and transfer value integrity throughout the supply chain.”??

No mention of the fact that we have some of the best QA systems in the world and until recently producers have been getting Third World prices for their stock.

The existing ‘A’ cipher for beef will be changed to ‘ANY’.

A new cipher EQG is to be established in the alternative category.

All cattle should be eligible for grading to the MSA eating quality system.

This really makes you bristle when difference between  MSA steak, that just fell across the line at a very low pass mark, can be called MSA and there is no difference in a piece of meat that comes from an extremely high score.

The MSA matrix also delivers a simplified description to the end user guaranteeing satisfaction. All I can say is that I hope it’s a lot better than we’ve had in the past.

The AusMeat language has high domestic and international recognition in the livestock language and can capitalise on this high profile. I wonder how many producers, retailers and consumers have any idea of the beef language. I would suggest very few.

The consultation process highlighted that the perception in many quarters is that there is a lack of trust between processors and producers.

Who could disagree with this statement, however I note that we are talking about new technology to actually give everybody confidence. When?

I find it fascinating that everybody can buy cheap web cams to put in their cars and cheap security cameras on the houses that can relay pictures back to the office that could be in another state. No suggestion here of using cameras prior to the scales. (too much to expect)? Could a producer watch on their computer or IPhone whizzer knives being used for hygiene trim, etc.?

Currently many of the grading measurements are based on subjective scores and as such are prone to variation between graders. The accuracy of graders’ scores needs to be more transparent to different sectors of the industry to help restore and maintain trust in the grading system. NO MENTION of independent graders here, surely a good way to get trust. Recent survey suggests 92% of producers like this idea.

When are the particular recommendations likely to be implemented?

  • Short-term (ST) within the next five years.
  • Medium-term (MT) 5 to 10 years from now.
  • Long-term (LT) greater than 10 years.

One recommendation that sticks out in particular is on farm audits, (ST), to be aggressively pursued. This will mean another impost on producers. On the flipside it could be a great source of funding for CCA. I wonder!

One of the most interesting facts is that the White Paper was brought on because of the insistence of the processors using butt shape as a discount tool despite the fact that there was scientific literature that suggested that there is no correlation between butt shape and meat yield. The fact is that I can find no mention of where butt shape is to be discontinued as a discount tool.

Carcasses bought by the side and trimmed before the scales have no mention. Is this not important?

To me the whole white paper is long on rhetoric and very short on solutions when it comes to fixing the problems that plague the red meat industry.

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