MIA Matters: British delegation visits New Zealand red meat sector

Tim Ritchie
Tim Ritchie.

New Zealand recently hosted a delegation from the United Kingdom, who were here for a week to get a closer look at how the New Zealand red meat sector operates, reports Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie.

The 20-strong British delegation included representatives from government agencies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and from major UK industry organisations, including the National Farmers’ Union and the British Meat Processors Association.

The visit was organised by the Ministry for Primary Industries and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Beef + Lamb NZ and the Meat Industry Association.

The week was productive, with a number of constructive discussions across a number of issues ranging through food safety regulation, farm assurance programmes, trade and market access and research and development.

Key aspects of the visit included farm visits to see first-hand New Zealand farming practices and approach to issues such as herd health, animal welfare and meeting regulatory requirements; and to hear from farmers how they have adapted their farming business and practice over the years.

The delegation also spent at time at processing plants in Southland (Alliance Lorneville and South Pacific Meats Awarua) and in Manawatu (ANZCO Rangitikei) to see the use of technology and automation in plants, and how processors respond to overseas regulatory and consumer requirements, including the role of audits and verification programmes.

The busy week included discussions of New Zealand’s government-industry working model, including the cost-recovery model, and New Zealand’s outcomes-based approach to food safety, the Animal Products Act 1999 and its role in the development and implementation of operator food safety Risk Management Programmes (RMPs).

The British delegation also heard from key figures involved in the agricultural reforms of 1984 and onwards, who talked about their experiences of the reforms, the lessons learned and New Zealand’s current agriculture policy and sector practices post-reform.

At the end of the week, the industry representatives from the two countries came together for a strategic discussion to explore opportunities for collaboration on issues of mutual interest. A number of common areas of interest were identified, including developing a robust and positive story around red meat as part of a healthy balanced diet, climate change and regulatory cooperation. The two delegations have agreed to meet again in the next three to four months to develop a more detailed work programme.

It is worth noting New Zealand meat companies have evolved their business model to allow them to meet the highest standards of production from both a regulatory and consumer perspective. Our outcomes-based regulatory framework enables this approach. We would also be happy to share our experience of this area with our UK counterparts, as they look to the future.

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