In the year 2033, Australian beef producers could be paid for their carcases based on the value of individual retail cuts, according to Meat & Livestock Australia managing director Richard Norton.
But,he warned the level of transparency consumers will expect from farmers on animal welfare and their herd’s carbon footprint could be “quite confronting”.
The guest speaker at the 2017-18 Southern Grassfed Carcase Classic presentation dinner, in Lucindale, on the weekend, gave an insight into how the beef industry may look in 15 years time.
He said the installation of DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) and rapid rise of automation in abattoirs would provide more information than ever before.
This would enable those producing high eating quality animals to be financially rewarded, replacing the simple carcase weight and p8 site fat specifications on many grids.
“Teys (Australia) is the first ever company to market beef out of Australia into South Korea based on its eating quality, not on the number of teeth in its head or ossification or anything else,” Mr Norton said.
“That is world leading stuff – not only can you guarantee eating quality but you can add a high margin.”
He also predicted steak would be marketed like a bottle of wine, based on its regional provenance and taste.
But, to keep beef on consumers’ plates, Mr Norton said beef producers faced a challenge developing an animal welfare and environmentally sustainable system, which was recognised globally.
“I don’t think we have too much to hide when I travel around the world,” he said.
“We are at the forefront of farming practises, with the exception of maybe the EU (European Union) which is just incredible with someone ringing up and asking if they can run 100 cows or plough that field.”
He said producers should accept using pain relief for all surgical procedures, from ear tagging to castration and proving their environmental credentials, would be part of doing business by 2033.
“It can be quite daunting but if as an industry we control our destiny, we control what happens in terms of animal welfare, what we measure in the environment to tell our story, we will be in front,” he said.
Mr Norton used the example of a Swiss importer he visited last year who buys $100 million a year of Australian red meat who asked if it hurt the animal putting an ear tag in its ear.
“That is what a lot of consumers of our product are like across the whole of the world,’” he said.
Mr Norton warned laboratory grown meat could “take off” if these concerns were not addressed.
“If you asked me 12 months ago about whether stem-cell meat, grown in a laboratory in a petri dish, would take off I would have said maybe my grandkids grandkids, on the way to the moon for a weekend will open a snack of laboratory grown grassfed beef, but in last 12 months some of the richest people in the world have invested huge amounts of money in producing artificial protein, particularly red meat,” he said.
“They are doing it based on the perception that eating livestock is damaging the environment, and the perception eating animals is inhumane.”