Congratulations must go to the Meat Industry Association (MIA) and Beef + Lamb NZ Ltd (B+LNZ), joint organisers of this year’s well-attended Red Meat Sector Conference at Rydges Lakeland Resort hotel in Queenstown.
Alongside heartening optimism for future demand for red meat, recurrent themes were the massive potential for New Zealand of emerging markets in Asia, especially China, water issues, the need to utilise best practice, the need for all links in the chain to tell the industry’s story to the public, plus the rapid emergence of social media as a tool for communicating with consumers.
In his opening comments, MIA chairman Bill Falconer also noted that, while not as quickly as some would like, encouraging progress is being made on the Red Meat Sector Strategy and that “small starts are being made across the board.” Later in the day Rob Davison, from the B+LNZ Economic Service, outlined a number of matrices that the Economic Service is developing that will help to track progress against the strategy, and these matrices will “focus conversations, thinking and actions to drive the future”.
The Conference also saw the announcement of new Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) funding for the red meat sector, for a project to develop high-value grass-fed marbled beef, using Waygu genetics.
All the presentations were a veritable smorgasbord of information, packed with facts, statistics and views from many facets of the industry, enabling delegates to pick out what was relevant for their part of the value chain. While every single one of the speakers was passionate and eloquent about their topic, from an export food manufacturing perspective the highlights were excellent presentations from McDonald’s Arron Hoyle and vertically integrated meat processor Agri Beef’s Rick Stott from the US.
Besides the serious business, there was entertainment and laughter too. Lunch – finger food featuring B+LNZ Ambassador chef Ben Battersbury’s speciality “alternative cuts, not cheap cuts” like lamb riblets – was amusingly heralded with witty comments from him. After dinner speaker Davey Hughes of Swazi Apparel gave an hilarious account of hunting expeditions in Africa and shared a few (tongue-in-cheek) items from his latest collection, including a new ‘mankini’.
Also noteworthy, was a significant Australian presence at the conference in the form of representatives from Meat & Livestock Australia and Aus-Meat. This put physical form to MLA’s managing director Scott Hansen’s opening comment in his presentation that “Australia sees a close collaboration with New Zealand.”
There was positive feedback from delegates, who came from all parts of the sector, including farmers, processors, equipment suppliers, researchers and media.