Meat Sector Strategy Under Way

I went to Wellington on Wednesday to attend the launch of MAF’s meat industry study Meat: The Future which provided an interesting couple of hours of entertainment. After an introduction from MAF’s Deputy Director General Paul Stocks, there were addresses from Tim Ritchie, CEO of the Meat Industry Association, Mike Petersen, Chairman of Meat & Wool NZ, and Bruce Wills, Meat & Fibre Chairman Federated Farmers.


They acknowledged the good work that MAF had put in to the study, but also to the amount of work still to be done. Tim was at pains to point out the enormous progress made by meat processors in recent years, saying the industry wasn’t broke, but Bruce Wills wasn’t keen to accept this, maintaining the sheep farmer still had to get $150 per lamb, regardless of what this would do to consumption in our global markets.


Mike Petersen said Meat & Wool was pleased to note the content of the study which reinforced the areas that organisation wanted to invest levy funds in, presumably provided farmers vote ‘yes’ when they are asked to cast their votes next month. Mike was relieved to be almost at the end of more than 70 farmer meetings, but was cheered by the feedback he had received.


Other speakers included the Minister of Agriculture, David Carter, Keith Cooper, CEO of Silver Fern Farms, as well as Graeme Harrison, Chairman of ANZCO Foods, and the MAF people who were largely responsible for writing the report.


The study is deliberately not a strategy or an action plan (that’s the job of the organisations already mentioned), but it has used the findings of its research to identify the important challenges that must be solved, so the meat industry can avoid slipping down a Slippery Slope, the least attractive of the four scenarios described. The others are Market orientation, Shrink-to-fit and Knowledge industry.


A combination of market orientation and knowledge industry would clearly be what all industry participants and observers would hope for, but the research respondents demonstrated progressively less confidence in reaching the ideal state in 10-15 years than in making some relatively small improvements in the near term. That reflects the fact the sector has failed to show much real sign of embracing the sort of changes needed to deliver a new industry model. There have been significant incremental changes on farm, in the processing sector and in the market, but the fundamental problems of insufficient farm profitability, procurement competition caused by over capacity and lack of farmer loyalty, product to guaranteed specification and market control factors have proved impossible to address.


With the best will in the world, I struggle to see how they can ever be solved because of the nature of farming, food production from agricultural commodities, and the enormous strength of the markets for that production. Improvements are possible with commitment to co-operation instead of competition between industry partners, investment in skills development, R&D and added value production, leadership and vision.


The sort of change envisaged demands much more vision, maturity and trust than has been evident to date, but there are signs of this starting to appear, and the MAF study provides an excellent summary of the issues to address.


My next column in Farmers Weekly which will appear soon covers this topic in more detail.


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3 Responses to “Meat Sector Strategy Under Way”

  1. Meat issues barely grasped « The Bull Pen Says:

    […] the initial assessment by meat industry commentator Allan Barber on his Meaty Issues […]

  2. Simon Says:

    Excellent stuff! I thought for a second Bruce Willis had left the bright lights of Hollywood to join Federated Farmers but I know see my error. Hopefully sheep farmers will not decide to increase profitability by looking to those pig farming swine who keep their animals in inhumane, inporcine conditions. Do you know what is happening since the rather repugnant Mike King turned on the pork industry and the minister of A pleaded ignorance? It would seem futile for the pork industry to bury its head in the sand on this one. I can only imagine consumer demand heading in the direction of meat from less immoral farming practices.

  3. Phil Sage (sagenz) Says:

    “With the best will in the world, I struggle to see how they can ever be solved because of the nature of farming, food production from With the best will in the world, I struggle to see how they can ever be solved because of the nature of farming, food production from agricultural commodities, and the enormous strength of the markets for that production. and the enormous strength of the markets for that production.”

    You unwittingly sum up the industry’s entire problem in one word. Commodities.

    That is, thinking that a product coming from individual, tech savvy farmers hwo are HACCP required to trace every shipment considering their product is simply a commodity.

    Until farmers realise that all the years of effort to get a quality animal ready for the farm gate should not be followed up by a nervous animal killed, chopped into 25 kg chunkc and slammed in a box then sold to a trader as commodity because they will pay in 72 hours, the industry is screwed.

    Long term farmer to customer marketing via upper level supermarkets or for the ground meat, quality burger chains is the only way out. added value processing, internet and traceability. Unfortunately the vast bulk of meat industry executives and the bankers who finance them are unable to grasp this.

    New Zealand range fed is a totally undervalued marketing concept

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