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.
- 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