AUSTRALIA’S world-leading eating quality grading program, Meat Standards Australia delivered an additional $198 million to producers in the form of price differentials for graded versus non-graded young cattle in 2018-19, MSA’s annual outcomes report released today says.
That figure translates to a direct in-the-pocket benefit worth $84/head for non-feedlot cattle producers, according to the report – a 30 percent increase on the year before.
The report also highlights that a record 3.5 million cattle were MSA graded in 2018-19, an increase of 350,000 head on the previous year and the highest yearly number graded since MSA’s inception in 1998, representing 43pc of the national adult cattle slaughter.
Not surprisingly, give the severity of the current drought, the proportion of grainfed to grassfed MSA cattle slipped somewhat this year, with 58pc of all MSA-graded carcases grainfed. Some years ago before the drought, there were more grassfed carcases graded than grainfed.
In 2018-19, 4.1 million sheep followed MSA pathways, representing 19pc of the national lamb slaughter, with 73.5pc of these going on into 18 MSA trademarked brands.
MSA program manager, Sarah Strachan, said the program’s latest data demonstrated the value that the MSA program continued to deliver to producers and Australia’s red meat industry.
“In 2018-19, the average price premium for young non-feedlot MSA cattle was 30c/kg hot standard carcase weight, or $84/head according to the NLRS over-the-hook weekly reports,” Ms Strachan said.
“In addition to delivering price premiums for producers, the MSA program ultimately delivers a consistent eating quality experience for consumers in Australia and in our export markets.
Growth in MSA beef and sheep brands continues, with an additional 23 new brands licensed in 2018-19, lifting the total number of MSA licensed brands to 195.
By volume, Queensland continues to process the greatest number of MSA graded cattle with 1.6 million head, while, at 82.4pc, South Australia had the greatest proportion of its slaughter cattle MSA graded.
“Achieving a higher price for our red meat will lead to greater returns for producers, and quality is a key attribute to make that happen and has become an expectation for our consumers,” Ms Strachan said.
“It is a focus for our industry – and MLA – to produce and market a product that consumers have confidence in, and will be willing to pay more for. MSA is a system that can underpin our brands, both in Australia and in export markets.”
Ms Strachan said the benefits of the MSA program continued to attract producers, with more than 3400 new beef and sheep producers becoming MSA registered in 2018-19.
More than 3000 beef and sheep producers attended 47 MSA education days during the year, and 2800 people undertook training via the MSA e-learning portals, she said. The myMSA online feedback portal was utilised by 4300 producers, 16,140 times.
This commitment to education was reflected in outstanding compliance to MSA minimum requirements at 93.8pc for cattle and 96pc for lambs, Ms Strachan said.
With increases in the volume and variation of cattle being presented for MSA grading, producers across the country achieved a national average MSA Index of 57.48.
Ms Strachan said the Eating Quality Graded (EQG) cipher, released in 2017 as part of the Beef Language Review, had continued to have strong adoption.
“The MSA licensed processors and operators now using the EQG cipher within parts of their business, represented 48pc of MSA graded cattle at June 2019,” she said.
By volume, Victoria processed the greatest number of MSA lambs at 2.1 million head, while South Australia had the greatest proportion of the state lamb slaughter following MSA pathways at 42pc.
State breakdown (MSA proportion of state slaughter):
- Queensland: 44pc MSA cattle
- New South Wales: 54pc MSA cattle and 4pc MSA sheep
- Victoria: 17pc MSA cattle and 18pc MSA sheep
- Tasmania: 68pc MSA cattle and 2pc MSA sheep
- South Australia: 82pc MSA cattle and 42pc MSA sheep
- Western Australia: 49pc MSA cattle and 29pc MSA sheep
MSA beef model 2.0
In 2018-19 MSA received industry approval to implement an upgrade to the MSA beef model (see original story). The changes have been endorsed by the MSA Pathways R&D Committee, the MSA Beef Taskforce and the Australian Meat Industry Language and Standards Committee, consisting of leading Australian meat and animals researchers and red meat industry representatives.
There are three main changes to the MSA beef model that will be implemented throughout 2019-20:
- Hump height will be used as a direct predictor of eating quality: while hump height has always been measured as part of MSA, it will now be used as a direct predictor of eating quality, rather than an estimate of tropical breed content. This change means there will be a new MSA vendor declaration form where tropical breed content will be simpler to record. There will also be an option on this new form for owners of cattle that use agistment or custom feeding operations to receive direct carcase feedback.
- The number of cut by cook combinations is expanding, including ageing predictions up to 50 days: the number of combinations will increase from 169 to 275. These offer more flexibility and confidence to broaden product offerings for retail and foodservice, and export markets.
- A refreshed myMSA and Opportunity Index: the new look and feel myMSA portal will be refreshed and easier to use. New features include the Opportunity Index, which helps producers focus on where financial gains can be made and to benchmark carcase attribute performance. It tells producers what their Index would have been if non-compliant carcases met the MSA minimum requirements. In 2017-18 this lost opportunity across Australia was estimated to be more than $20 million.