Future growth seen for MSA Four-Star products

Jon Condon, 04/07/2011


Meat Standards Australia program manager Michael Crowley says emerging brands like Southern Supreme are part of a new trend being seen in MSA development.

There were now four MSA-backed brands in Australia that were targeting higher quality boning group 1-4 carcases, Mr Crowley said.

In addition to JBS Southern Supreme (see accompanying article, New brand extension program for JBS) these included two Greenham Tasmanian branded products – Cape Grim and Pure South – and Harvey Beef out of Western Australia.

Many young cattle producing MSA boning groups 1-4 would produce Four-Star tenderloins, cube-rolls and striploins, Mr Crowley said, particularly after aging was applied.

“Brand managers are starting to scrutinise how they can manage carcases in a more sophisticated way to maximise the amount of product making the Four-Star grade,” he said.

While the use of Three, Four and Five ‘Star’ ratings has always been a part of the MSA system, for some time the ‘Star’ references have been largely replaced by equivalent terms like ‘MSA-3’ or ‘MSA 5’.

“But in more recent times, marketing work has shown that consumers certainly identify more strongly with a ‘Star’ rating descriptor, and some MSA stakeholders are now adopting it,” Mr Crowley said.

MSA program manager Michael Crowley“The move is not so much an MSA policy, but is being commercially-driven by some of the ‘willingness to pay’ consumer data that has been collected over the past few years, during MSA doing sensory work.”

At this stage, MSA was not looking to produce generic point-of-sale material referencing ‘Four Star’ or ‘Five Star’, because there was not yet enough volume of material in the market to justify it. But it was likely to become part of an increasing number of commercial brand stories, along the lines of JBS’s Southern Supreme program.

“It’s a step-by-step approach,” Mr Crowley said. “It’s very difficult to go from a catch-all type scenario which MSA was, to capturing products by cut alone. But this further segregation trend that’s occurring can certainly lead to the next step, to then being able to harvest by cut, alone.

The industry can then become a little more sophisticated about how those cuts are harvested, for optimum outcomes.”

Seasonal variance was one of the challenges that brand managers would have to face in delivering a consistent supply and quality of Four-Star graded product throughout the year.

Brand managers involved were working hard behind the scenes, and already had a pretty clear direction of how they were going to achieve that, and who they were going to sell the product to, Mr Crowley said.

He said further segmentation certainly would not apply to all current MSA brands (as at March 31, there were 63 MSA-accredited beef brands in existence Australia). But when stakeholders started to examine ways they might be able to capture more value out of MSA, they tended to look at two angles:

  • how to grade more of the cattle currently falling out of spec; and
  • further segregation in production runs.

“Over time, MSA has built up a vast amount of data that helps them make those judgements, based on how much Four-Star volume is required to justify brand extension, for example, and ways that might be achieved.”

More than ever, MSA was helping stakeholders with data analysis to help make informed decisions about topics like this, Mr Crowley said.    


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