Barber’s Wire: Resistance or resilience – which best characterises the red meat sector?

Allan Barber

The Red Meat Sector Conference held in Auckland on Monday did not have one single theme, but a series of themes across the day, starting with the question ‘resistance or resilience?’ Past history suggests the answer might most logically be both rather than a choice between the two options. Allan Barber attended for MeatExportNZ.

In his introductory remarks MIA chairman John Loughlin said the volatile global situation contrasted with a relatively stable environment at home with a predictable meat industry, while Beef + Lamb NZ chairman James Parsons highlighted the need to reduce on farm costs while achieving incremental gains across the supply chain.

Formally opening the conference, Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew emphasised the importance of meeting consumer expectations for transparency and integrity of food production, including not only quality and food safety, but also provenance, sustainability, animal welfare and staff culture. She maintained food safety must be part of an ingrained culture, not the result of mandatory inspection and this is critical for New Zealand’s reputation for high quality food.

This was followed by two reasonably dry presentations: firstly, a review of food safety challenges and opportunities in the meat industry from the American perspective by Barbara Masters, senior policy adviser to the meat and poultry industry, and secondly a summary of Chinese meat production, processing and food safety by Li Shuilong, Executive president China Meat Association.

Masters highlighted the negative tone of consumer advocate groups in the USA campaigning against meat, food import equivalence arrangements and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the grounds it will pose a threat to food safety. But she also reassured the conference New Zealand was seen as low risk and had earned a high level of confidence from authorities with little risk of change to inspection standards or equivalence arrangements.

The most challenging presentation came from scientist, inventor and philanthropist Sir Ray Avery, founder of Douglas Pharmaceuticals, the largest private pharmaceutical company in the Asia Pacific region. He urged the meat sector to dream big, saying it was important to have a plan of where to be in 10 years’ time and to complete the planned strategy.

But above all it was necessary to come up with customer centric solutions instead of products by observing what customers want and understanding how a novel idea will meet that wish. What makes a company great is the people who work as a team, dare to dream and have no respect for the status quo.

Resistance or resilience? It seems to me both attributes are essential in our meat industry.

Allan Barber is a red meat industry commentator. He can be reached directly via allan@barberstrategic.co.nz.

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