Australia’s cattle industry can learn from the mining sector’s approach of proactively addressing issues and diffusing the criticism of detractors, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, told last week’s BeefEx conference on the Gold Coast via a video message.
After making his fortune mining iron ore and selling it to China, Mr Forrest recently renewed his cattle industry roots by buying several WA cattle properties, including his family’s former property Minderoo Station in the Pilbara, and WA’s largest beef processor Harvey Beef.
His return to the beef industry comes just as the Australian beef sector is dramatically ramping up trade with China.
In a video interview with Australian Lot Feeders Association CEO Dugald Gordon, aired for the first time at last week’s BeefEx conference, Mr Forrest explained how he hopes to use his already deep relationships with China to help Australian beef to become a key part of “the Chinese food security matrix”.
“We have obviously developed some wonderful relationships which have been built up over years and years of trust,” he explained.
“I would like to deploy that to really grow China’s trust in the Australian agricultural sector and particularly the Australian beef sector, and to let them have complete faith in us that our supply, our quality and quarantine standards are the best in the world.”
With activist sentiment against meat production and animal agriculture increasing, Mr Forrest suggested the Australian cattle industry should take a leaf out of mining’s book and take a proactive approach to dealing with potential issues before they “collectivise”.
When the mining sector began making commitments to leave the environment in a condition at least as good as it was when a mining development began, it stripped away much of the criticisms directed at the sector.
In the same way, Australia’s cattle industry had to proactively act to cut away potential criticism.
“Lets’ ensure that outside of that half hour during castration and branding and ear marking etc that we can say to anyone in the world our cattle have lived contented lives, and at the end of that they will be pain and fear free,” he said.
“And if we can do that then we have removed out of the clutches of potential enemies to the beef industry the very weapon which they think they need.”
Food production was a noble business and one which all participants should feel proud to be part of. Any opposition from the animal libertarian movement around the happiness of the animal was “perfectly addressable”, he said.
“I think we’re getting so much better in the feedlot, we’re sensitive to what the markets are saying, we’re out there always trying to improve the conditions of our cattle,” he said.
“… (We need to) be making sure that we can answer all of those question that our cattle at the end of their lives have no pain or fear, and that they have lived basically good sound content lives, and then we can face down those forces.”
To view the full 12 minute interview between Andrew Forrest and Dugald Gordon click on the video above.
In the interview Mr Forrest discusses:
- His views on how the cattle industry has changed since his childhood on Minderoo
- His motivation for buying Harvey Beef (1 min mark)
- Synergies between the iron ore and the cattle business (2 min)
- What he hopes to achieve with the Australia Sino One Hundred Year Agriculture Partnership (4 min)
- His concern that there are too many middle men involved in Australia’s export trade to China and the need to reduce that to improve producer profits (5:30 min)
- Lessons agriculture can learn from mining in dealing with detractors (7 min)
- What needs to be done to address animal welfare issues (9:30 min)
- Why he believes mining and agriculture can sustainability co-exist (11 min)