Vets ask: Does the community have a beef with beef?

Beef Central, 19/05/2015



CONSUMER perceptions of red meat can influence livestock producers to change the way they raise their animals to respond to consumer preferences, a leading agriculture academic says.

The community’s influence on the supply chain of Australian beef, and the vet’s role in helping farmers meet these new demands, will be discussed by University of Queensland’s Professor Jim Rothwell* at the Pan Pacific Veterinary Conference being held in Brisbane next week.

“A survey of 1016 main grocery buyers in Australian households found that when purchasing lamb and beef they considered, in order: freshness, taste, quality, safety, nutritional benefits, convenience, versatility, price, then integrity – which includes welfare, environment and place of origin,” Professor Rothwell said.

The additional attribute of food safety was already ‘assumed’ by Australian consumers, he said.

Main grocery buyers in the nine main overseas markets for Australian red meat were asked the same question.

“In developing markets, freshness, safety and nutritional value were the top three factors,” Prof Rothwell said.

“In developed markets, freshness was also the first ranked factor but taste, quality, versatility and nutrition were also important. Price was not the key factor anywhere and welfare and the environment were low in all markets,” he said.

In a separate survey conducted in 2014 with 1001 main grocery buyers in five Australian capital cities, the important factors when purchasing red meat were quality, price, nutrition, followed by welfare, origin and environment.

“Only five percent of the buyers considered welfare and the environment when making a purchasing decision,” Dr Rothwell said. People that considered these issues were most concerned about transport and slaughter.

“Half the sample struggled to mention anything negative about the beef industry at all, and those who could mentioned animal welfare and live export,” he said.

“Despite these findings, when programs such as the May 2011 Four Corners program expose slaughter practices in other markets, these broader, negative community perceptions can have a huge impact on Australian farmers.”

Professor Rothwell said that closing the gap between the community and key influencers in the red meat industry was critical for ongoing community trust.

Issues that had been identified by the industry as priorities are transport conditions and travel time, on-farm mortality, feedlot and pen conditions, dehorning, castration, tail docking and desexing.

“While greenhouse emissions is not currently a huge issue, it is one that industry is continuing to respond to  In Australia, 15.2pc of greenhouse emissions come from agriculture, and beef cattle contribute 44pc of Australia’s agricultural emissions , or 6.7pc of the total which is lower than the global average,” he said.

Professor Rothwell said veterinarians had a vital role to play in farming communities advising clients how to improve and attain best practice.

These included:

  • Providing and enabling pain relief for routine husbandry practices
  • Training farmers to safely and effectively administer local anaesthetics and analgesics for dehorning, castration, tail docking, spaying
  • Advising on nutrition to reduce mortality
  • Managing pregnant animals and vaccinating of females and offspring
  • Assisting with animal health and disease programs.


The Pan Pacific Veterinary Conference represents a collaboration between the Australian Veterinary Association and the New Zealand Veterinary Association. The conference will be at the Brisbane Conference and Exhibition Centre 24-29 May.

* Prof Jim Rothwell is from UQ’s faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science





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  1. Michael Taylor, 21/05/2015

    Too right Jim.
    The next generation are IT literate and very keen to know all about how, where and what they consume was created.
    We use QR codes for Grazing BMP producers to tell their story and personalise their commitment to providing a ‘no guilt’ eating experience.

    We attach a family info sheet to the QR code – and introduce the consumer to were their food sits within the landscape, what sort of things the business does, and also what work they do to toward conserving their natural landscape.

    Feedback has been great!

  2. Michael Taylor, 20/05/2015

    Good article – and the survey funding support the findings of Grazing BMPs consumers survey of over 400 city folk at EKKA last year.

    Grazing BMP has established a simple self assessment process for graziers to identify where they need to be to be operating at an appropriate level – or best practice.

    Jims article is right – graziers need the support in developing the skills required that ensure we can operate with the ‘glass door approach’ – not closed door. Grazing BMP offers a simple starting point to work out where and what needs attention first.
    Good stuff Jim.

  3. rod moore, 20/05/2015

    I have collated feedback from 25 to 42 yr old end-users for a project my business is involved with. The following is out there Big Time and on most peoples’ radar (A) Before you bite it — Write It (B) Before you Snack it — Track It (C) Before you drink it — Ink It (D) If you Lick it — Tick It (E) If you hog it — Log It. Any suggestion the end-user has no interest in what a producer did or did not do to an animal before slaughter needs to revisit their management plans. QR codes need to be linked back to each RF device via NLIS.

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