A delegation including Central Queensland cattlemen Howard Smith and Ian McCamley and staff from Cattle Council of Australia recently visited the US to investigate further market opportunities for grassfed beef.
The tour coincided with the 2014 US National Cattlemens Beef Association conference, where the CCA representatives had the chance to observe a direct-membership producer representation model at work.
Given the significance of the Australian grassfed market, CCA last year developed the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System (PCAS), an assurance program that enables the industry to prove claims relating to pasturefed or grassfed production methods.
One of the objectives of the trip, which included stops at Washington DC and Nashville, was to investigate the possibility of PCAS becoming verified by the US Department of Agriculture, which would provide another level of assurance for importers about the quality and providence of Australian grassfed product.
"The scale of the US market represents huge potential for Australian grassfed beef," said Rolleston beef producer, Ian McCamley, in a CCA statement.
"There is a real niche for a premium grassfed product such as that produced under PCAS. If we are successful in achieving USDA accreditation then we can offer a level of assurance around the quality of the product we produce in Australia, and that its grassfed claims stands up to scrutiny."
He said applying for USDA accreditation was quite an extensive process, and could take some time. “However, without pre-empting any part of the process, I am confident that we will be able to work through it and provide the USDA with assurance in our system."
The US is Australia's second largest beef export market by volume, with shipments in 2013 reaching 212,000t, valued at about A$1 billion. About 70 percent of the trade is in manufacturing beef.
Frozen grassfed beef continues to make up a majority of Australian beef sent to the US, however chilled beef cuts have been on the rise for the past decade.
While attending the US National Cattlemen's Beef Association conference in Nashville, the delegation took the opportunity to meet with key figures in the US beef industry, including executive staff and past and current presidents of the NCBA.
Attending the conference had further significance for the Cattle Council given its recent announcement of direct membership.
CCA member and president of Queensland’s Agforce Cattle division, Howard Smith, said attending the NCBA conference offered the opportunity to see exactly how direct membership can work, as applied in the US context.
“The US does things on a scale and volume that is almost incomprehensible in Australia. There were 8200 producers attending the NCBA conference in Nashville," he said.
"The NCBA has a structure similar to that recently adopted by the Cattle Council, which provides for direct, state and affiliate memberships. It is probably the most politically powerful agricultural group in the US and offers a demonstration of what can be achieved with a united front," Mr Smith said.
Source: Cattle Council of Australia
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