McCamley sustains drive for carcase language change

James Nason, 16/10/2014
Ian McCamley (left) discusses ag sustainability with fellow panellists Tony Gleeson and Adam Kay.

Ian McCamley (left) discusses ag sustainability with fellow panellists Tony Gleeson and Adam Kay at the Rural Press Club of Qld forum.

What do carcase language and beef industry sustainability have in common?

Perhaps not a lot at first glance, but without big changes to the first, it will be almost impossible to achieve the second, a Rural Press Club of Queensland forum on sustainability was told on Tuesday.

For more than 10 years Central Queensland cattle producer Ian McCamley has been campaigning for changes to carcase language in Australia to ensure that the best eating quality cattle receive the best price.

The current AusMeat language system is, he says, based on outdated 1970s thinking that robs producers of profitability and, just as importantly, the market signals they need to produce better quality beef, which would benefit the entire supply chain.

He says the advent of MSA eating quality science has shown that the existing AusMeat quality and price determinants of age, dentition, meat colour and fat are lacking in scientific justification and too open to subjective interpretation, often at the producer’s expense.

To illustrate, he points out that cattle that grade in the best MSA boning groups for eating quality can often return less money per head than cattle that grade in lower MSA boning groups, simply because of the number of teeth they have.

Why do we penalise producers for producing the type of cattle that will most satisfy consumers, he asks?

As previous Beef Central articles have highlighted (see below this article), Mr McCamley believes dentition should be removed from processor grids in favour of a system that allows cattle to be graded purely for eating quality under science-based MSA assessment.

It is a measure of his determination to drive change on this issue that when he was asked to address the RPCQ forum on sustainability in Brisbane on Tuesday, it wasn’t long before he turned the discussion back toward the need for changes to carcase language in Australia.

That is not to say he didn’t have a strong case that the two issues are inherently linked.

As Mr McCamley told the forum, the core component of sustainability is profitability: “It is the glue that holds it all together”.

However, “some silly stuff” in the middle of the chain was robbing producers of profitability and direction.

“Our current description is based on 1970s science and it is a 1986 model,” he said.

“I don’t know about you but I don’t like driving 1986 model cars, I’d rather drive a brand new one.

“It is really frustrating as a producer doing all those things on farm that I think are right, and I put my hand on my heart and say they are, and my employees are exactly the same, and I know I have a customer who is excited about the product.

“.. (But) I‘ve got an issue where I can have the very best eating quality animal, and I know that his true chronological age which is not even an issue, he is actually younger than another animal, but because he has cut more teeth, I lose $350 a head.

“Multiply that over a few thousand head and it is serious money.”


Earlier Beef Central articles on carcase language

AusMeat language review: Where is the process up to?

Producers must be catalyst for change in driving dentition out of industry

Industry scrutiny on carcase language, descriptors gathers pace

Cattle Council to explore new carcase language

Butt shape part 3: Is it time for a broader grading/carcase assessment review?

Butt shape part 2: A brief lesson in history

Butt profile: Weapons of Mass Discounting, or legitimate carcase sorting tool?

PCAS visionary named 2013 Qld Beef Producer of the Year

Get rid of AusMeat/MSA anomolies, MLA told


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  1. Brett McCamley, 19/10/2014

    Uniformity in grading and pricing is a real issue in beef processing plants. Having carcasses meet MSA grading requirements but not individual plant requirements is an impost that should not be tolerated. When you send cattle to a plant and have to make the decision as to whether you will subject your carcasses to an MSA grader and have those that fall out of plant specs be downgraded to manufacturing prices in some cases as much as $0.60/kg downgrade. The processing industry is drunk on power, and the sooner reform occurs with this outdated model, then the beef industry can step confidently into the 21st century.

  2. David Hill, 17/10/2014

    The Australian beef industry has the potential to be this country’s largest manufacturing industry, once car manufacturing ceases. Processing in this country has to become more efficient. We are not a low cost of production country, there are country’s that will always be able to supply commodity product cheaper than us, where it is possible we need to look to supply our product on a quality basis, into markets where the consumers have both the capacity and willingness to pay a price for our product that is profitable to the whole of the supply chain. We need a system that delivers language and description consistency from farm to fork, as an industry we need true value market signals. If Australian beef is being undersold at both a domestic and export level, then this is ultimately a GDP issue for the Australian Government, as well as a sustainability issue for industry.

  3. Luke Simmons, 16/10/2014

    Well done Ian. This man makes a lot of sense and is trying to make sensible changes to benefit an entire industry, we need to support him.

  4. john carpenter, 16/10/2014

    As I noted in my submission to the Senate cattle producers ,for sometime, have been paying consumers to eat beef.Cattle prices are simply uneconomic.Throw in the baffling array of discounts levied by the supermarkets and processors against cattle producers and the situation becomes quite hopeless.This should be of concern to everyone especially the processors who are now drunk on too much of a good thing.There is only two ways out of this box and both require Government intervention.The first is a massive expansion of live exports particularly to China where there is idle processing capacity.A bilateral protocol on live exports should be a priority.This would be far more valuable to cattle producers than an FTA.The second is the establishment of a single national beef grading system that would grade by law all beef sold at retail in Australia.The AUSMEAT language is arcane and obsolete.Any system that calls old cow meat grade “A” has to be highly suspect.The only answer is a revitalised MSA taken out of the control of MLA .

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