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QA Systems???

Over the years I have watched fads come and go in the red meat industry.

Most of these fads cost producers considerable time and money which seems to me to give little or no rewards to the producers. In fact they seem to have one thing in common, they cost producers a fortune and other sections, like processors, gain the advantage.

MLA and others have told us how we must get better with our QA programs and guarantees all along the production chain. However when it strikes the processing chain, or retail stores, we don’t seem to see the same sort of guarantees.

According to MLA (some 12 months ago) other countries are very jealous of our market share into Southeast Asia and US.

Is this the same? MLA is now talking about Australia losing market share in these countries. Is it possible that with all the bells and whistles, Australian beef is simply too expensive.

How long will it be before the processors can get the kill numbers up enough to knock the price down? Some people believe this adjustment is not far away.

Calls for company graders are cleverly deflected by the talk of new infrastructure to accurately measure the value of each carcass. The interesting part to see is how long it will take for these new technologies to come into use and how much they will cost the long-suffering producers.

One major processor has adopted a QA formula standard where as they allocate points for producers dependent on the level of compliance. Each farm has the potential for improved standards/improved marketing measures. Farms can also be downgraded if the expected standard is not met. This can be through non-compliance or through choice. It seems the price will depend on compliance or non-compliance.

Some examples:

  • Natural lighting within a building is adequate if the animals can be clearly seen e.g. must be adequate to read a newspaper.
  • Smoking must be in designated areas and not enclosed areas containing animals at any time.
  • Feeding water; livestock must have a diet that is nutritionally adequate to maintain health and meet the appropriate physiological requirements for growth, pregnancy, lactation and withstanding cold/heat exposure.
  • Surely to be a successful farmer feed is one of the essential parts of running a successful farm; if you starve your stock you will starve yourself.
  • Culling livestock; only trained personnel may perform the task of destroying sick or injured animals.
  • A diagram goes into detail on how to shoot a sheep. The diagram suggests that you should shoot the animal above the level of the eyes whilst aiming along the neck. Then the head must be held steady by an assistant whilst keeping out of the line of fire.

I for one have never seen a farmer stupid enough to hold the head of an animal while somebody put a bullet in its head.

This is just a few examples of one processors QA program. Another program by another processor required producers to sign to say whether their stock was predated on Wolves, Wolverines or Mountain Lions etc.  The origin of this particular QA was in New York City.

To me this shows just how ridiculous the rules governing producers are. Obviously these rules were drawn up by people who have no idea how a well-run farming enterprise actually works.

It occurs to me if cattle producers and their service organisation, MLA, drew up QA programs for processors and tried to enforce these programs onto processors imagine the reaction; complete ridicule.

One thing all these schemes create is employment for auditors, service organisations and others. However they all come at a cost to long-suffering producers.

Who is to blame?

  • Producers not speaking with one voice?
  • Do processors and major retailers have too much power?

Answer: a united producer group to oversee producers’ productivity and profitability to assure fair trading.


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