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Aussie beef signs Olympic marketing deal as Richard Norton signs off

James Nason, 22/11/2018

Richard Norton gives his final address as MLA Manging Director at the organisations AGM in Canberra today.

 

MEAT & Livestock Australia has announced a major new marketing deal that will put Australian beef on the biggest promotional platform in its history.

Australian beef has been marketed as “the greatest” and fittingly will now align with the greatest sporting event in the world, Richard Norton announced in his final address as MLA managing director this afternoon.

Australian beef will become an official partner of the 2020 Australian Olympic team, which will provide unprecedented promotional opportunities in its two largest markets – the Australian domestic market and Japan, where the 2020 Olympics will be held.

Mr Norton said the deal will extend from television and social media rights through to point of sale material, promoting beef from elite athletes to grass roots sporting programs.

In Japan during the Tokyo Olympics, Australian beef will be served at all Australian Olympic team events.

The news was a big ticket item in a speech that recapped many of MLA’s achievements over the past four years, before Mr Norton also offered some frank parting words for the industry on the importance of not allowing poor performers to undermine the great story Australian red meat has to tell.

When he took over as MLA managing director in 2014 the organisation was a key subject of a Senate Inquiry which attracted hundreds of submissions, and confirmed levy payers and stakeholders required organisational change.

Mr Norton said the MLA board and executive listened and in the past 4.5 years have driven a suite of changes to make the organisation more accountable and transparent, consumer centric and outcome-driven.

He said it was also clear that the industry had to innovate like never before. The industry could not look to Government to solve its problems and effectively had to “innovate or die”.

That recognition drove the introduction of DEXA carcase yield objective measurement technology to pave the way for processing automation and value based marketing. “This means red meat carcases can be valued on retail yield and not the antiquated system we have,” Mr Norton said.

The installation of DEXA technology has now been costed in 98 percent of Australian sheepmeat abattoirs, and is already operating in JBS’ Brooklyn and Bordertown abattoirs. An independent review by Greenleaf Consulting identified a 20 percent per head saving on boning costs through use of the technology.

The adoption in beef had been slower but in May this year Agriculture Minister David Littleproud switched on the first DEXA unit at Teys Lakes Creek processing plant.

This week the industry celebrated 20 years of MLA and 20 years of the MSA meat eating quality assurance scheme. In 2017 alone MSA had generated $152m in additional farm gate returns, with an independent valuation in 2015 showing the program had paid for itself 12 times over. That work also paved the way for eating quality ciphers that now sees Australian meat traded in global markets on eating quality.

MSA faced resistance at its introduction, and Mr Norton warned that with the fierce competition Australian beef now faces the industry doesn’t have another 20 years to adopt automation technologies being developed at the moment.

“We need to rapidly move to a value based payment system where producers can be paid on yield and eating quality, linked to the DNA of the animal. If we want to receive value for our product we can no longer accept traditional grading technologies.”

Another highlight had been MLA’s strategy to aggressively pursue matching funding available for research, which had allowed it to attract $180 million in research funding for red meat from commercial partners outside direct producer levies and Government funding in 2017-18.

Through that process MLA has utilised 99pc of matching funds available in 2017-18, increasing overall investment in red meat research and development by 36pc more than the previous year.

MLA was also now able to reinvest millions of dollars royalties from research back into funding more industry research and marketing.

Mr Norton said MLA had also focused on reducing corporate costs to just 6 percent of overall income, which meant it was able to invest more money into R&D and adoption and less in administration and overheads.

Other changes introduced during his tenure over the past four year included the introduction of the National Livestock Genetics Consortium with the specific aim to double the annual rate of improvement in industry genetic value by 2022.

The creation of the Integrity Systems Company had also strengthened industry quality assurance programs and streamlined the delivery of the Livestock Production Assurance program, the National Vendor Declaration and the National Livestock Identification System. The ISC is also charged with the added responsibility of setting strategic for management of industry data, to break down industry data silos and ensuring industry owns the data it produces and can freely exchange it.

Mr Norton spoke about the significant role MLA played in global consumer market intelligence to better understand red meat consumers and to build demand, and its role in supporting Government in trade and market access negotiations.

MLA also last year announced a commitment for the industry to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, building on the 45 percent reduction in emissions achieved by the industry in the previous decade.

Mr Norton said the Australian red meat industry did not need the heavy hand of regulation to achieve the ‘CN2030’ target.

“It is industry’s job to take the lead on this,” he said.

“What we need from state and federal Governments is clear, stable policy underpinned by objective science-based evidence that aligns with this initiative and enables continued investment in research, development and adoption to reduce methane emissions from livestock and optimise the carbon cycle in grazing systems.”

Parting words: ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept’

Looking forward, Mr Norton said embracing change was the only option for the industry in future.

“If we do not challenge ourselves as an industry, if we do not have the difficult conversations, if we do not make the hard decisions, then ultimately the consumer, the community and the Government will do it for us.

“In the past year we’ve unfortunately seen examples of that.

“Because of the actions of a few and the inaction of others to address those, the live sheep trade is now opposed by many in the community and slated for closure in there is a change of Government.

“On one hand some want us to run multi-million dollar TV campaign to promote the value of the live export industry. Others want us to stay out of it.

“We also saw indefensible behaviour – again by the actions of a very small number – in a domestic abattoir.

“Some in our industry hoped the issue would not be picked up

“And when MLA questioned this course of action, we were told we risked further regulation of abattoirs, feedlots and farms

“However the covert footage was shared right around the world where it raised the concerns of one of our largest customers in one of our most valuable markets.

“It then fell to MLA to defend our industry with a global customer worth up $46 million to our industry.

‘The fact is the actions of very few can have an impact on very many’

“The fact is the actions of very few can have an impact on very many.

“The standard we walk past is the standard we accept. It’s not enough to simply abide by regulation Consumers expect that at a bare minimum.

“If we as an industry are going to share what is an overwhelmingly positive story about Australian red meat, we’ve got to be prepared to back that with every action in every business every day.

“And when there is a problem industry’s leadership has to be united, prepared and properly equipped to identify risk and manage crises.”

MOU must clearly assign responsibilities

Mr Norton said the current industry memorandum of understanding which sets out the roles and responsibilities for the red meat industry’s peak councils and service providers does not service the industry well.

“I fear we have not learnt from previous incidents like 2011.

“For the sake of our industry, I make one final recommendation in this role.

“And that is that the current review of the industry’s MOU resolves the ownership of industry risk and responsibilities for managing issues, because the current situation is not working in the best interests of the industry.”

During her address to the AGM MLA chair Dr Michelle Allan thanked Mr Norton for his four and a half years of service to MLA levy payers.

“Every day that he served, and I am sure a lot you have observed, Richard has championed our levy payers interests and worked tirelessly during that time to ensure MLA delivers tangible value to the Australian red meat and livestock industry,” she said.

“It has been an honour and a privelege to work alongside Richard during his term, although most of his term has been out with levy payers, not inside with us.

“His dedication and commitment to our stakeholders and Australian red meat consumers has been critical in moving MLA to a customer centric, accountable and transparenct serice company, delivering outcomes that do and have made a difference.”

2018 MLA AGM VOTING RESULTS: Voting on resolutions at today’s MLA AGM saw Manny Noakes elected to the MLA board with a vote of 87.4pc in favour and Jo Pye elected with a vote of 91.28pc in favour, and Mick Hewitt elected to the MLA board selection committee with a vote of 95.07pc in favour.

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