Industry scrutiny on carcase language, descriptors gathers pace

Jon Condon, 09/12/2013


The transition into new chairmanship early next year for AusMeat and the Industry Language and Standards Committee will dovetail in nicely with upcoming industry-wide scrutiny over the way it describes and apportions value to carcases, and the beef produced from them.   

As described in Friday afternoon’s article, highly-regarded Allan Bloxsom will take over as chairman of the two bodies in early 2014, following the retirement of Tony Wharton, who has chaired AusMeat for the past ten years.

As announced on Beef Central in September (click here to view original article), Cattle Council of Australia has initiated a study of the future requirements for the language and descriptors used in the beef industry, including the AusMeat language, to ensure the best outcomes for the Australian beef industry. That applies particularly in providing opportunities to differentiate Australian product in international markets.

In comments this morning noting the appointment of Allan Bloxsom as the new AusMeat/language and standards committee chair, CCA said beef producers “would be following his lead with close interest.”

“Beef producers are calling for changes to make the AusMeat language relevant to the modern beef industry and consumer, both in Australia and internationally,” president Andrew Ogilvie said.

At CCA’s request, Meat & Livestock Australia is in the process of developing an industry White Paper detailing beef and veal language criteria and carcase specifications based on scientifically-based eating quality measures and measures to satisfy consumer preference.

The White Paper would assess all relevant current methodology, as well as outline technology necessary to be developed to ensure that industry language stays relevant into the future, Mr Ogilvie said.

MLA managing director Scott Hansen told Beef Central on Friday that terms of reference for the White Paper project were currently being progressed, which would provide the basis for consultancy firms wishing to lodge an interest in taking-on the analysis early next year.

“There appears to be widespread acceptance across all sectors of the industry that it is a good time to have a look at the language, how it has evolved to the point where it is today, and what opportunities might lie ahead to make it better,” Mr Hansen said.

“The primary purpose of the project will be to make sure that the AusMeat language continues to serve the needs, not only of the Australian industry, but of international and domestic customers who utilise it on a daily basis in their ordering of Australian beef and lamb.”

It is expected that one or more commercial consultancies will be appointed to take on parts of, or the entire analysis.

“It may be that one company does it all, but it is perhaps more likely that several entities will work collaboratively. One might look specifically at what other trading languages are out there around the world, and the features they contain that might be of interest to Australia, for example,” Mr Hansen said.

Once the tender document was finalised, it was hoped that the project might ‘get a fair way’ by the end of March next year, so that the industry could start to examine some of the findings and possible options, he said.

“At the same time, every step taken has to be well thought-through and considered, because customers around the globe are using the current AusMeat language and tools every day of the week on which to trade meat. There are considerable commercial implications,” he said.

There have been a series of wide-ranging concerns raised this year about the relevance and accuracy of the current version of the AusMeat language, and its apparent duplications and commercial contradictions with other measurements taken as part of Meat Standards Australia and standard killfloor data collection.

Just one such example that has re-surfaced recently surrounds the application of dentition over ossification as an age/maturity indicator (click here to view earlier Beef Central article).

Another is the use of butt shape as a meat yield indicator (click here to view earlier article, "Butt Profile: Weapons of mass discounting or legitimate carcase sorting tool?"), and the validity of the P8 site as a fat depth assessment point.


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