RECORD retail prices, and the effect that is having on consumption, has dominated the conversation around the domestic beef and lamb market this year.
The domestic red meat market will feature in a special publication, Rare Vision, in Australian Community Media agricultural publications this week.
Courtesy of short cattle and sheep supply, retail prices have been rising, with the beef average weighted retail price currently sitting at just under $20 a kilogram, up $5 from 2012.
Meat & Livestock Australia has just wrapped up an evaluation of marketing activities for the past five years which shows the consumption declines of the past 20 years have slowed during 2019.
Beef consumption is now sitting at 27kg per capita and lamb 8.6kg but forecasts are beef will be back to 24.4kg by 2023.
"When you overlay the price rises, we take that as a win," MLA domestic marketing manager Graeme Yardy said.
In 2019, beef's share of the retail fresh meat value is expected to finish at 35 per cent, above any other animal protein with chicken in second place at 30pc and lamb in third at 12pc.
At the big industry event Lambition in Victoria in July, MLA boss Jason Strong argued the price/consumption trade-off had to be kept in perspective.
The domestic market remains the single largest for both beef and lamb and consumer data shows the percentage of households eating lamb remains very high at more than 76pc.
"There would be pushback on volume because of price but measuring success solely on domestic consumption is crazy - a far broader perspective is needed," he said.
Although chicken consumption has tripled, its price has remained the same - while beef consumption has decreased but prices have gone from $10/kg to just under $20/kg.
"Yes, domestic customers eat 10kg a year less beef, but they pay twice as much for it," Mr Strong said.
"We'd love to see more Australians eat beef and lamb but if we have to trade off half the price to get that, we can get used to the lower consumption rates."
All the carcase
Rising shelf prices have driven far more creative thinking by retailers and marketers.
"Things like full utilisation of carcase have really come to fruition," Mr Yardy said.
"This year, we've seen much more use of brisket, ribs, ossobuco, beef shin and cheek, both on menus and in supermarket product ranges.
"These are fantastic cuts but the challenge is you have to know how to cook them right. But the more people see them, the more they will be inquisitive and seek out recipes."
Showcasing lesser-known cuts and education around preparation methods has been a priority for MLA this year.
"The other thing becoming much bigger is how we connect with customers," Mr Yardy said.
"It's no longer good enough to have a meeting with them, we have to accelerate how we spread the word."
Chicken is still the biggest competition for red meat on the domestic front, holding its place as the top animal protein consumed in Australia.
Its affordability and ease-of-cooking is the attraction but chicken is not something people aspire to serve to guests at a dinner party.
"The cost-of-living rises means there is little room where people can tighten their belts and so chicken has done well," Mr Yardy said.
"As red meat marketers we want to ensure the credentials and eating experience are there so people rate our product as special and worth paying a bit more for but we can't afford not to be relevant in this space as well.
"Easy weeknight meals is the big consumption segment so we have to make sure people see beef and lamb meals beyond bolognaise."
That's why marketing has been ramped up around ease-of-cooking and versatility, with the likes of slow cooked meals and tacos dominating red meat domestic advertising.
"Our research also shows young cohorts are not moving out of home with the same meal preparation skills that past generations had," Mr Yardy said.
"And everybody has far less time, and often less willingness, to cook."
A project where stickers were placed on meat packs sold in Aldi that demonstrated what 'well done' looks like in comparison to medium or rare resulted in a 17pc sales increase.