LAST week this column brought news of the accelerating shift toward online shopping for meat and groceries in the United States in consequence of the impact of COVID-19.
That story touched on one example of Australian export product well placed to benefit from this change in buying behaviour, the Great Southern range of brands produced by JBS in our southern states.
On the very same day that story was published, Meat Import Council of America (MICA) announced the launch of a line of Angus beef sampler boxes from New Zealand into the US online market.
In the JBS example it was a case of being in the right place at the right time with a well-credentialed product already part of the online meat range offered by one of the US 'big box' warehouse type cash and carry operations.
The New Zealand initiative, on the other hand, is a well-orchestrated foray into territory that the exporter, their distribution partner and industry representative organisation feel they can ill afford to ignore.
Silver Fern Farms is New Zealand's largest red meat producer and exporter and in this venture they are supported by US import distributor Marx Companies with the backing of farmer-owned industry body Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
According to MICA, the three sampler boxes offered will feature sustainably produced grass-fed and pasture-raised Angus beef.
But unlike the Australian product, the claimed eating quality and grass-fed/pasture-fed benefits appear to have no MSA-equivalent underpinnings nor third-party audited assurance as to their grass-fed and pasture-fed status.
Rather, the marketing pitch relies on feel-good sentiment associated with New Zealand's renowned climate, clean air, pure water, lush green pastures and happy animals grazing naturally and roaming freely as nature intended.
The New Zealand initiative is a well-orchestrated foray into territory that the exporter, their distribution partner and industry representative organisation feel they can ill afford to ignore.
Marx Companies VP Justin Marks thinks it will work. "Silver Fern Farms produces some of the highest-quality, purest beef in the world and our customers know it. We're expecting these new sampler boxes to be very popular among those who want it all: impeccable eating quality, purity, sustainability and the highest animal welfare standards."
For their part, Beef + Lamb New Zealand will invest in a paid digital media campaign and engage social media influencers, foodies and content creators to develop recipes featuring the various Angus beef cuts available in the sampler boxes.
The three boxes contain different combinations of popular grilling steaks, short ribs and ground beef. Most expensive at US$199 is the Beef Steakhouse Box which contains four 6oz tenderloin steaks, four 10oz ribeye steaks and four 12oz strip steaks.
That works out at around A$85/kg.
Taiwan pitches to US
AGAINST a background of overtly targeted Chinese militarism, Taiwan has moved to strengthen trade ties with the United States by relaxing non-tariff trade barriers on beef and pork.
Taiwan's President Tsai In-wen announced last Friday that her country would lift the restriction on US beef imports from animals older than 30 months and would also allow the import of US pork produced with feed additive Ractopamine. The amended trade rules are expected to start in January.
Taiwan has actively sought a trade deal with the US for many years but these claimed food safety barriers have been touted as the reason that trade talks have never begun.
The issue of China claiming Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory has made it very difficult for Taiwan to be included in bilateral and regional trade deals that have evolved under the WTO umbrella despite Taiwan being a member country.
According to MLA, Taiwan's total beef import market reached an all-time high of 129,906 tonnes shipped weight for the year to May 2019. July 2020 calendar year-to-date figures from Department of Agriculture put Australian exports to Taiwan at 14,190t. June year-to-date figures (latest available from USMEF) show US tonnage at 29,101.
Until 2015, Australia overshadowed the US as Taiwan's largest beef import supplier but since then US market share has increased markedly. The US and Australia both have access to the Taiwan market at the same tariff rate of NT$10/kg on beef. One New Taiwan dollar currently equals 0.046 Australian dollar. New Zealand, our next biggest competitor, enjoys zero tariffs.
Grid rates revised
CLEAR skies over most parts of the country last week had some effect on supply in physical markets but mostly in the store segment.
In Dalby's 3700-head yarding last Wednesday the market report showed only eight head of grown steers going to processors. Cows were represented a little better but still only 180 head going to the works.
This underscores the dilemma facing the processing sector at present with regard to supply but if the anticipated La Nina event does materialise, numbers can only be expected to tighten even more.
Published grids in southern and central Queensland dropped 10c/kg on Monday bringing 4-tooth ox to 630c and heavy cow to 550 with no difference between southern and central rates. A similar adjustment was made to published grids for Wagga and Naracoorte bringing rates at those locations to 605c and 550c for similar description cattle.
Interestingly Monday's Wagga sale moved in the opposite direction to the losses of the past two weeks with some well-presented heavy steers and grown heifers attracting domestic processor interest. The steers gained 6c to average over 700c DW and a handy offering of heavy cows gained 5-11c bringing their DW equivalent up to 580-590c.
On the export front, Steiner reported US lean beef imports firming by 4c/lb at US$231/cwt for indicator Aust/NZ 90CL blended cow FOB US East Coast. This improvement may in part be due to a dip in domestic non-fed cattle slaughter, down 3.7pc on year ago level.
A firming in dairy product prices on the back of an additional $1 billion in funding for the Food Box program is thought to be influencing fewer numbers of dairy cows coming to slaughter. The Food Box program buys meat and dairy products for distribution to low-income households.