Red meat industry ready to act on risks affecting processing and its role in a sustainable industry

After two days of discussions and presentations, by more than 35 industry experts from around the world, red meat industry delegates who attended the Vital Ingredient Sustainability Conference, hosted by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC), should have a fresh perspective on their role in helping to create a sustainable industry.

30 December, 2016.

The Vital Ingredient Sustainability Conference, the first to be held by the AMPC, was attended by a gathering of meat processing industry stakeholders to provide a platform where members, scientists, academics, consultants and producers could share some of the research, information and best practice that will help build a thriving industry.

The conference was a sequel to the industry’s “Feast of Ideas workshop” held earlier this year that sought fresh inspiration for ensuring the long term sustainability and profitability of the red meat processing sector.

“The Conference was one step the AMPC has taken in a year long journey to enable Australia to build the most sustainable red meat industry. It has been encouraging to have spent the last two days with many industry experts who are proactively leading industry innovation and capability developments for their stakeholders and communities,” said AMPC Chairman Peter Noble.

The first day gave delegates a preview of the latest research and innovation in meat and food science, and showcased the latest in sustainability and technology. However it was the topic of international competitiveness and the regulatory environment – two of the six industry risks identified from the Feast of Ideas workshop - that dominated the agenda.

Yesterday’s program involved a high caliber of speakers who shared with 200 delegates their experience and opportunities in addressing the remaining four industry risks.

Professor Wendy Umberger from the University of Adelaide shared interesting insights into how food labelling is leading to misinformation amongst cynical consumers and what the industry is doing to change consumer perceptions around how ethical the meat has been produced.

Dr Aarti Tobin from CSIRO Agriculture and Food shared her insights in to how mega trends, such as an aging population and consumer perceptions on the health benefits of red meat, has shifted consumer demand. Their research helped delegates understand how other stakeholders are researching and looking to change poor consumer sentiment around red meat.

On the topic of climate change, Professor Richard Eckard from Primary Industry Climate Challenges Centre, posed a strong position on how climate change will impact livestock production in Australia, whilst Nobel Peace Prize winner, Professor Mark Howden from the Australian National University, spoke about what is happening with climate change and its effect on the livestock industry, why such changes are occurring and the likely future changes.

Simon Crean from the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council lead discussions on the industry’s risks associated with the topic of social licence to operate. Mr Crean gave a powerful speech about animal health, animal welfare best practices and shared his experience on how to make the industry one of the best in the world. Sophie Hansen, 2016 RIRDC Rural Woman of the Year winner shared with delegates how the industry can use social media to better create a social licence to operate by building trust and engaging in conversations with communities.

To whet appetites before lunch, guests were treated to a light hearted but competitive 'Ready Steady Cook' Celebrity Chef Live Demonstration where Alastair McLeod lost to Janelle Bloom’s chargrilled skirt steak creation.

Opinions on a fragmented value chain were the final presentations of the day where Doug McNicholl, from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), demonstrated the key areas of MLA’s involvement in value chain integration activities and the role of the MLA donor company in driving adoption of R&D, through partnerships with stakeholders. Meanwhile University of Southern Queensland Professor, Alice Woodhead, gave an interesting insight into the potential for a value chain integration into the Asian food supply chain.   

Wrapping up the conference, Mr Noble said he hoped the conference will help to encourage everyone, build their confidence, give them tantalising, exciting new ideas as to how we can all grow our businesses sustainably and provide a useful roadmap for the hard work we still have to do to keep winning.

“It’s clear to me that one of the ways we’ll make the red meat industry sustainable is to engage our local – and broader – communities and stakeholders in a lively dialogue. We want to become more open and transparent. We want to answer the tough questions. And we want to tell some of the great stories that exemplify what we do.”

Securing a viable future for a vital Australian industry

Australia’s $23 billion red meat industry is at risk from fierce international competition and changing consumer tastes according to a sustainability report published by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation which aims to proactively address the challenges through a unified, whole-of-industry approach.

24 November, 2016.

The report entitled ‘A Feast of Ideas’ defines six material risks based on research conducted by Ernst & Young on Australian and international red meat industries as well as a comprehensive stakeholder survey.               

The risks include a challenging global competitive environment, changing consumption patterns that are leading to a decline in the domestic demand for red meat, a fragmented supply chain, an increasing consumer focus on food safety and quality, environmental protection and animal welfare, a complex regulatory environment and climate change.

Peter Noble, Chairman of the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC), said that taking no action to these risks was not an option.

“This report puts these issues out on the table and aims to start a conversation with all the participants in the red meat industry’s supply chain as to the best way to understand and respond to them,” he said.

“When you look at our value chain, processors are in a unique position because they have touchpoints with all participants in the supply chain – from livestock producers through to the customers in the international markets where 74% our produce is consumed.”

“It is from this unique position that AMPC has assessed the risks and begun to actively implement specific projects. The projects are aimed at overcoming vulnerabilities faced by the supply chain and enable Australia to build a more sustainable and viable red meat industry,” Mr Noble said.

International Competition

While Australia currently exports more than its peers on a relative basis, the industry faces substantial competitive pressures both domestically and internationally. Domestically, the sector competes with exporters of live animals. Internationally, it competes primarily with Brazil, the US and India for export markets. It is estimated that this competition will increase over the next five years, largely because of cost disadvantages.

To counter the challenges posed by international competition, we are making significant investments to improve the industry's cost structure and leading the way in evaluating and developing innovations and technologies. For example, we are designing a prototype six-axis robot to pick individual primal cuts from a conveyor and place them in cartons. In real time, the robot will be able to identify information such as primal cut type, position, and orientation.

Changing Consumption Patterns

With an increased focus on “healthy” and “humane” consumption and greater demand for convenience foods, eating patterns in developed nations are undergoing substantial change. During the past three decades, consumers have turned away from red meat, opting rather for chicken and pork.

The AMPC is undertaking research to develop products to suit the demand requirements of the ageing population. They are also investigating how to provide consumers with clear and consistent branding that clarifies how the meat was raised and processed and exploring new and innovative ways to develop value-added products.

Value Chain Integration

Australia’s red meat sector operates at a competitive disadvantage to those other red meat industries with greater levels of integration. Not only does greater integration reduce economic costs in the sector, it also allows for more sharing of information, better economies of scale, effective marketing and an ability to respond to customer demands.

To demonstrate the benefit of collaboration and to facilitate discussions and build trust between producers and processors AMPC is funding research to investigate options for a coordinated supply chain information system.

Regulatory Environment

The industry’s value chain is highly fragmented. As a result, it is not well positioned to respond to an increasingly uncertain regulatory environment where changes can occur rapidly, and without industry consultation. Ensuring effective advocacy to avoid unnecessary and burdensome regulation typically requires a high degree of alignment.

The AMPC is undertaking research to investigate options to reduce regulatory duplication and improve effectiveness and working with regulators to build awareness of industry practices and systems.

Social Licence to Operate

The Australian red meat industry’s social licence to operate is derived from the regional communities in which it operates. The confluence of factors around animal welfare, environmental impact and healthy diets will continue to place the industry’s social licence to operate under a higher degree of uncertainty.

AMPC is currently undertaking research into more sustainable practices, such as reducing water, energy usage and the release of effluent at our processing facilities and increasing advocacy and research into the industry’s social impact. This research will play a vital role in securing the industry’s future, ensuring sufficient labour is available, confirming its social licence to operate, and cementing its place in the economy and the agricultural sector as a vital, healthy, attractive and sustainable industry.

Climate Change

Australia is facing a changing natural environment with increasing incidences of "extreme" weather events and changing weather patterns that directly impact the industry. The increasing rate and severity of "extreme" climatic events may pose ongoing and regular disruptions to Australian production.

AMPC is working to raise awareness of Australia’s changing climate in the red meat processing sector, investing in research that seeks to understand critical vulnerabilities in the value chain and investigating technology, infrastructure options and mitigation techniques to minimise the industry’s impact on the environment.

For example, AMPC is collaborating with the CSIRO to test the introduction of seaweed into cattle feed. The CSIRO found that when introducing seaweed into the feed – instead of becoming methane, carbon in the gut becomes available for producing other types of energy molecules more useful to cattle for their growth. It can almost eliminate methane emissions from the digestive processes of beef cattle.

The full sustainability report ‘A Feast of Ideas’ and further information on these initiatives is available on our sustainability microsite:

The Australian Meat Processor Corporation hosted a webinar on Friday 28th October 2016 with AMPC Chairman Peter Noble and Ernst and Young’s Peter Dyett. They explored the six material risks facing the red meat industry.   The webinar can now be viewed at -

Cattle, climate, consumers and communities: the meat industry has a plan

Feeding seaweed to cows to cut emissions, saving rural communities and developing new and profitable Australian food products. These are just some of the diverse items that will be on the agenda at an industry conference in Sydney at the end of the month.

15 November, 2016. 

The Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC), the body that supports the red meat processing sector in Australia, will host the inaugural Vital Ingredient Sustainability Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on the 29th and 30th of November.  

A lineup of industry experts, including Professor Ted Schroeder from the US, Declan Troy from Ireland and Tim Ritchie from New Zealand will discuss risks facing the business that contributes $23 billion annually to the nation’s GDP and employs 134,000[1] people.

The conference is a sequel to the industry’s “Feast of Ideas workshop” held in Wagga Wagga recently that sought fresh inspiration for ensuring the sustainability and profitability of the red meat processing sector.

“Now we’re looking at how we can use best practices to become one of the best sustainable businesses in Australia,” explains AMPC chairman Peter Noble.

“Our industry has changed phenomenally over the past 20 years along with consumption patterns and the regulatory environment. Doing nothing now will mean we could lose value from the entire red meat supply chain.”

The search for answers will take the conference into new territory, like the “Internet of Things,” where everyday objects are connected, options for transforming meat to boost its acceptance in some markets, or methane-lowering seaweed stock feeds.

Some risks identified in the AMPC’s recently released Feast of Ideas sustainability report ( will be best tackled by the entire supply chain collaborating more effectively, says Peter Noble.

“Lack of information sharing can disadvantage participants along the chain and lead to low levels of trust, and cooperation.”

Improving continuity of cattle supply and automation technologies that can cut processing costs will be important, too, if processors are to successfully deal with the threats facing them.

The conference will also feature the latest research and innovation in meat and food science and showcase innovative technology.

“The red meat industry is the foundation on which many rural communities are built,” says Peter Noble.

“I look forward to seeing its representatives at the conference to discuss how we best map out our shared future.”

[1] “Evaluating the Socio-economic benefit of the red meat processing industry in regional Australia: Milestone 5 Report”. Published September 2016.