Opinion: Objective measurement does not negate need for independent graders

David Byard, Australian Beef Association, 13/10/2016


One of the most interesting outcomes from Senator Barry O’Sullivan’s travelling beef show last week was to hear and watch producers talk about the mistrust that producers felt.

Rightly or wrongly there is concern amongst producers about the amount of trim prior to scales and the grading which is undertaken by  company graders.

The simple fact is that if a producer feels that there has been a problem, it is almost impossible to prove as we saw in Victorian processing plant some time ago.

When a producer’s stock are dropped off at the processing works, the processor doesn’t take delivery for after the scales. Even worse he has no idea of what goes on between delivery and scales. Over the years this has caused deep mistrust.

When producers go to meetings they always talk about the lack of scrutiny in the processing works. Independent graders would go a long way towards getting trust into the system.

The obvious solution is to have independent graders, employed by independent authority or company.

Whenever anybody asks for consideration about  independent graders there is talk of who is going to pay for them. From my point of view the companies are paying their employees to do the grading and I can’t see why this would cost much more for independent graders and could give producers peace of mind.

Some people may suggest in some circumstances a company grader is more compliant with his employer than he really should be. Some even talk about the fox being in charge of the henhouse.

It would seem to me that whenever producers talk about independent graders the subject is bought up of new age grading, which is on the horizon.

Could it be possible that the technological breakthrough may be like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, which of course is very difficult to actually find?

The costs of these machines is one factor, who is going to control and calibrate these machines. The maintenance man on plant is going to struggle with this new technology and even the IT man may struggle, and if the machine breaks down who is going to fix it at what cost?? Certainly many questions, with very few definitive answers at this stage. At the Senate it was mentioned that processors will not adopt objective carcase measurement if they can’t see benefits.

Whatever happens in the future, as a show of good faith processors, could install cameras along with the software so as a producer could identify his or her cattle being slaughtered, and watch the process right up to the scales and how much trim is actually taken prior to the processor actually taking delivery of any given carcass.

Another version may be to actually employ an audit firm to actually carry out inspections through pictures being beamed through a computer.

Technology is wonderful if it is simple to work, simple to fix, robust, cannot be interfered with (all digital technology can be) and can be audited on behalf of producers.

  • David Byard is the chief executive officer of the Australian Beef Association


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  1. David Byard, 14/10/2016

    Toby we all have the choice whether we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution. To attempt to be part of solution one runs the risk of getting criticised no matter which way you turn. One thing I am certain of is a dog eat dog attitude continues the same problems will continue to manifest themselves.

  2. Toby Mooring, 14/10/2016

    David, you now sound like you work for MLA – ‘supply chain must respect and trust each other’ – processors showed no respect in 2013 and 2014 for producers. So in your processor meeting they agreed to independent graders?

  3. David Byard, 13/10/2016

    According to Mr. Mooring the ABA doesn’t understand the beef industry. Could I suggest that Mr Mooring actually looks up the USDA grading video which shows independent graders working in US processing works. He goes on to suggest that I should go out of Tasmania and have a look around, it may interest Mr Mooring that I have spent the last two days in Melbourne at meetings with processor interests, which was focused on trying to find a mutually satisfactory way forward for processors and producers, this is not an isolated meeting the ABA spends most of our resources on these sort of endeavours, which involves much travelling. In this day and age it is critical that all links in the supply chain must respect and trust one another and work towards satisfying consumer expectations, until we can achieve these goals our industry to industry will not reach its full potential.

  4. Jo Rea, 13/10/2016

    What is in the dark ages is dropping your product (any product) off at the gates and then saying send us a cheque when you have decided what it is worth.

  5. Toby Mooring, 13/10/2016

    If ever we needed proof ABA doesn’t understand the beef industry, this is it (lets stay in the dark ages David). Its time to get out of Tasmania and have a look around.

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