Comment: B+LNZ’s overseas promotion spend under review

Allan BarberNext year, sheep and beef farmers will have their five yearly referendum under the Commodity Levies Act when they get to vote on whether they wish to continue funding Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) as their industry good body, writes Allan Barber.

It was a fairly close run thing last time and actually resulted in the motion to continue with wool promotion being defeated, although this is now back on the agenda. However, there is obviously some nervousness about the likely outcome of the next referendum, although this may be unfounded if farmer returns continue to be positive.

One element of B+LNZ’s activity which tends to provoke debate among farmers is the use of funds for overseas promotion. Within the last 20 years, and especially more recently, there has been an agreement within the meat industry that promotion should be jointly funded by Meat Industry Assocation (MIA) members and B+LNZ.

But it appears there is a feeling at farmer level expenditure of this nature should not continue to be funded as it currently is and funds spent by B+LNZ should be directed behind the farmgate. This will undoubtedly become a key issue to resolve satisfactorily before the referendum.

B+LNZ has consulted all the individual meat companies on establishing a separate joint marketing entity which would represent farmers and all MIA processor and exporter members under a similar structure to the B+LNZ Inc domestic promotional body. This structure sets a precedent for a jointly-funded marketing organisation with its own board and management which in this case will be able to apply for third party support from government agencies such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

After the last referendum, there was talk of the domestic B+LNZ organisation taking over the international marketing as well because of its skills and expertise in this area. But that no longer appears to be on the agenda.

The issue with the latest marketing proposal is whether it will be remotely possible to obtain agreement of all MIA members to contribute funds for the purpose of country of origin promotion and, if so, how much. Of the larger meat companies, Silver Fern Farms’ chief executive Keith Cooper indicated a strong preference for company brand promotion; other companies are in favour of generic New Zealand promotion in specific markets.

Rather than glossy marketing in traditional markets, he would be prepared to consider some funding for educational promotion in emerging markets. However, he questioned how much should be spent in this way and said he was not interested in another quango to administer it.

This is a long running philosophical debate – some farmers are unwilling to keep spending their levies on what they believe should be meat exporters’ responsibility, while others see it as an essential part of their business; and within the MIA membership there is a divergence of views between those that favour country of origin marketing and those in favour of supporting their individual company brand.

It is possible to see merit in each of these points of view, although the least justifiable position would appear to be for farmers to believe they should take no responsibility at all for the generic promotion of their beef and lamb. The success of New Zealand Lamb in mainly European markets is testament to the importance of country of origin marketing.

The alternative of no New Zealand Inc brand activity, especially if it can attract government support in addition to industry funding, would seem to be a case of the red meat sector shooting itself in the foot. A compromise solution which satisfies both farmers and companies, while enabling the larger companies to afford support for their company brands would appear to be in the best interests of all the parties.

But B+LNZ has to make sure it gets a yes vote in the referendum next year, while the prospect of all MIA members agreeing on an industry marketing strategy is reasonably far-fetched.

It will be good if everybody involved could work positively for the general good of the sector.

Allan Barber is a meat industry commentator. He has his own blog Barber’s Meaty Issues and can be contacted by emailing him at

Comment: Barber’s thoughts from the UK

Allan BarberWhile in the UK briefly last week I spent a couple of nights with an old university friend who actually got a First in Agriculture at Cambridge which was the best degree achieved by any of my friends or, not surprisingly, me. He farms near the M4 in Berkshire less than 100 kilometres from London.

As usual when I see him, we were chatting about the state of agriculture in our respective countries. He asked me whether I needed a ‘pommie farmer whinge’ to provide some material for a column, so not unnaturally I told him to go ahead. His first complaint was about the amount of New Zealand lamb competing with British lamb in the supermarkets. I suggested the view back home was the natural seasonal fit of New Zealand product didn’t really cut across, but rather complemented, the seasonal availability of British lamb.

He partly agreed with me on this, but said the British sheep farmer would still prefer it if the competition from our lamb didn’t exist. I was able to provide some reassurance here by telling him how China had come from nowhere to be the biggest market by volume, if not value, for New Zealand lamb which meant there was progressively less being exported to the UK than was the case even 12 months ago.

An aside here which I discovered soon after getting back at the weekend: apparently sales of stockinette are back up to levels last seen in the 1980s when most New Zealand lamb exports were shipped in carcase form. This is clearly a direct consequence of the increase in sales to China, so while we can be pleased with the diversification from our traditional markets, we should be less excited by the return to a product form from the 1980s.

As a crop farmer who has a contract with a contractor on a similar profit share basis to our share milking model, my friend is frustrated by the delay in setting the basis for the current season’s EU subsidy. While we may think he’s lucky to be receiving a subsidy at all, as I told him, his frustration is understandable, because until he gets this information, he can’t confirm the profit share with his contractor.

Interestingly, his calculations indicate that this year’s profits will be higher than last year, in spite of a lower price. This is because the yield this year is so much better than last. After a very wet start to 2014, the weather has been much more favourable and this year’s crop is in much better condition.

My friend confirmed the continuing problems being experienced by British dairy farmers who are still losing money on every litre of milk they produce. The supermarkets still dominate the price of milk, while it appears farmers don’t have the ability to supply milk at a higher price for the manufacture of cheese and other value added products.

A final impression from my brief visit was the lack of sheep, at least in the parts of England I drove through. In the Cotswolds, where I grew up, sheep appear to be almost a forgotten species with only the impressive wool churches, built in the Middle Ages, to serve as a reminder of where the region’s wealth originally came from.

But I suspect that has probably been the case for the last thirty years or more. Land use change isn’t restricted to dairy farm conversions in Canterbury and Southland.

Allan Barber is a meat industry commentator. He has his own blog Barber’s Meaty Issues and can be contacted by emailing him at


Prime Minister helps select New Zealand’s tastiest lamb

Sophie Pascoe, Sarah Walker, Prime Minister John Key and Lisa Carrington at the 2014 Glammies.New Zealand’s most tender and tasty lamb was announced yesterday afternoon at the final of the annual Beef + Lamb New Zealand Golden Lamb Awards, aka the Glammies.

Fraser and Sara Briant from Gisborne beat over 150 entrants with their Coopworth, to claim the Grand Champion title, the coveted trophy and $2,500 in prize money.

New Zealand prime Minister John Key was part of the panel selected to taste and judge the top 20 lambs in New Zealand alongside B+LNZ Inc Iron Maidens Sarah Walker, Lisa Carrington and Sophie Pascoe, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ambassador Chefs Ben Batterbury and Darren Wright and head judge Graham Hawkes.

“This year there were a couple of standout entries for me. I really enjoyed judging alongside John Key and the other Iron Maidens, we all understand the competitive aspect to the competition so it was a lot of fun!” says Sarah Walker.

The top 20 lambs were selected from a total of 158 entries which were put through scientific measurements of tenderness, succulence and colour by Carne Technologies.

Also awarded today was the title of Grand Champion Retailer which went to Progressive Enterprises (Countdown), North Island with their Dorset/Romdale.

The Grand Champion’s entry was processed at Silver Fern Farms Takapau.

The 2014 Glammies were sponsored by Zoetis and further supported by processing plants across the country. These include: AFFCO, Alliance Group Ltd, Ashburton Meat Processors Ltd, Auckland Meat Processors/Wilson Hellaby, Blue Sky Meats, Cabernet Foods/Kintyre Meats, CMP Canterbury, Harris Meats, Land Meat NZ, Lean Meats, Progressive Meats, Silver Fern Farms, and Taylor Preston/Ken Wilson Meats.

The Glammies finalists have been announced

Iron Maiden Sarah Walker and head judge Graham Hawkes at 2013 Glammies.The finalists in the 2014 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Golden Lamb Awards, aka the Glammies, have been announced.

After stringent scientific testing at Carne Technologies, the 158 entries have been whittled down to the top 20 in the hunt for New Zealand’s most tender and tasty lamb.

The competition, sponsored by Zoetis, saw entries from farmers nationwide as they try to take home the prize money and the kudos of being named the producer of New Zealand’s tastiest lamb.

Meat retailers are also in the race as they vie for the Retail Grand Champion title.

The finalists are:

Class 1: Best of Breed – Traditional

  • Fraser Briant, Gisborne (Coopworth) processed at Silver Fern Farms Takapau
  • Forbes Cameron, Ashhurst (Romney) processed at Alliance Dannevirke
  • Paul, Rachel & Mark Heslip, Balfour (Perendale/Romney) processed at Alliance Lorneville
  • Colin Lockhart, Lawrence (Romney) processed at Alliance Lorneville

Class 2: Best of Breed – Crossbreed

  • Warren Erickson, Gore (Coopworth Texel) processed at Silver Fern Farms Finegand
  • John & Wendy Knowles, Tuatapere (Romdale/Texel) processed at Alliance Lorneville
  • Roger & Alison Thomas, Tuatapere (Perendale Texel) processed at Silver Fern Farms Waitane
  • Murray Wards, Gore (Textra) processed at Alliance Lorneville

Class 3: Best of Breed – Terminal X

  • Lindsay & Judith Gerrard, Winton (Coopworth Texel/Texel) processed at Silver Fern Farms Waitane
  • Don Morrison, Gore (Growbulk/Growbulk Charollais) processed at Alliance Lorneville
  • Pete Swinburn, Waipukurau (Kelso Composite/Suffolk) processed at Silver Fern Farms Takapau
  • Matt & Lynley Wyeth, Masterton (Highlander/Primera) processed at Silver Fern Farms Takapau

Class 4: Best of Breed – Open

  • Leon & Wendy Black, Riverton (Textra Texel Coopworth/Texel) processed at Alliance Lorneville
  • Robert Gardyne, Oturehua (Perendale/Poll Dorset Texel) processed at Alliance Lorneville
  • Lindsay & Judith Gerrard, Winton (Coopworth Texel/Texel) processed at Silver Fern Farms Waitane
  • Danny Mickleson, Taihape (Textra Romney East Friesian/Textra Texel) processed at Silver Fern Farms Takapau

Class 5: Retail

  • Greytown Butchery, Greytown (Texel) 
  • Progressive Enterprises (Countdown), North Island x3

The Grand Champion will be found at Wanaka’s Upper Clutha A & P Show on 7 March where a panel of judges will taste their way through samples of all 20 finalist lamb legs.

The competition is supported by processing plants across the country. These include: AFFCO, Alliance Group Ltd, Ashburton Meat Processors Ltd, Auckland Meat Processors/Wilson Hellaby, Blue Sky Meats, Cabernet Foods/Kintyre Meats, CMP Canterbury, Harris Meats, Land Meat NZ, Lean Meats, Progressive Meats, Silver Fern Farms, Taylor Preston/Ken Wilson Meats.

Material supplied by B+LNZ Inc.


Alliance Group and M&S launch research project

One of the country’s largest meat processor and exporters Alliance Group and the iconic UK retailer Marks & Spencer are to launch a research project after signing a sole-supply chilled lamb deal.

The Marks & Spencer-supported research will examine the effect of different environments and types of feed on lamb growth rates, carcase weight and yield of New Zealand lambs.

A delegation from Marks & Spencer has just completed a visit to New Zealand to discuss the research and the major supply contract.

Murray Behrent, group livestock manager at Alliance Group, says the research project and exclusive contract for Pure South lamb demonstrated the strengthening relationship between the two companies.

“The research and the exclusive contract is great news for Alliance Group and our suppliers. We have enjoyed a 20 year partnership with Marks & Spencer, which is well-known for its loyal customer base for lamb. Alliance Group is looking forward to supplying more premium products to this important market and commencing this key piece of research to help improve the returns to our suppliers.

“All Alliance Group products supplied to Marks & Spencer will be sourced from registered M&S Select farms so that the co-operative can provide traceability for the UK retailer.”

Steve McLean, head of agriculture and fisheries sourcing at Marks & Spencer, says: “We have been impressed with the way that the Alliance Group’s lamb products have performed over the past 12 months and the feedback from our customers has been excellent. Alliance Group’s commitment to traceability, the strength of its research and development programme and the quality of the livestock provided by its suppliers were key factors in our decision to sign this contract and collaborate in this research.”

The Pacesetter research project, which follows an earlier study carried out in 2011, will be undertaken at Alliance Group supplier Lone Star Farms station in Middlemarch.

Lone Star Farms has noticed large variations in lamb meat yield, from property to property, and throughout the season. They are interested in the influence that non-genetic factors, such as type of forage and sex of lamb, have on growth rates, carcase weight and meat yield throughout the season and how they can alter these to optimise production and profit on-farm.

Jo Kerslake, the consultant at AbacusBio conducting the research, said preliminary results from the 2011 trial showed yield decreased over time with lambs yielding highest off their mother in January (56.1 percent), decreasing by two percent in February and March, decreasing another 0.6 percent in April and another 0.6 percent in May. No large differences were observed between lambs of different breed or sex but some differences were observed for lambs grazing different forages.

“This decreasing trend in yield throughout the season is often questioned by farmers. While it is well known that genetics can influence overall yield, the influence of forage type, environment type and management on lamb meat yield over time is not so well known.

“A second trial is being carried out to better quantify the effect of forage and environment type and will include irrigated lucerne, irrigated ryegrass, dryland ryegrass and dryland fescue.”

As part of the trial, 1,000 lambs were electronically tagged at weaning, with weight, age and sex recorded. Lambs are randomly split over the four different forage and environment types to be assessed. The lambs will be re-weighed at fortnightly drafts and processed with individual lambs being tracked to Alliance Group’s VIAscan® information.

“To understand the impact that forage and environment type, sex of lamb, and time of season has on growth rates and yield, it will be important to try and assess these factors independent of feed restriction or parasite challenges,” she said.

“To ensure we get a clear picture, lambs will be fed to their full potential, parasites controlled, weather and soil temperature recorded and pasture amount and qualities measured”.

Alliance Group is a co-operative owned by approximately 5,000 farmer shareholders and is the world’s largest processor and exporter of sheepmeat.

Marks & Spencer is one of the UK’s leading retailers with more than 21 million customers every week. The company employs over 82,000 people in the UK and abroad, and has over 700 UK stores, plus an expanding international business with over 50 different territories around the world.

Alliance Group supplied material.

NZ’s Beef and Lamb ‘culinary rockstars’ revealed

Beef and Lamb 2014 Ambassador Chefs

Left to right are: Mikey Newlands, Scott Kennedy, Darren Wright, Ben Batterbury and Ryan Tattersall.

The five 2014 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ambassador Chefs have been announced.
Chosen from the 164 recipients of the 2014 Beef and Lamb Excellence Award, the selected chefs represent some of the top performers amongst the Award holders.

Each of the five chefs dished up one course of a beef and lamb degustation menu yesterday to a table of 20 media personnel.

The five chefs are: Ben Batterbury, True South Dining Room at the Rees Hotel, Queenstown; Scott Kennedy, Nero Restaurant, Palmerston North; Mikey Newlands, Bracu, Auckland; Ryan Tattersall, Cobar Restaurant, Wellington; and Darren Wright, Chillingworth Road, Christchurch.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc chief executive, Rod Slater, says this year there has been a real emphasis put on these chefs.

“To us they’ve always been rockstars in their own right, but we thought there was space to really celebrate their success in a much larger way.

“That is what today’s lunch is about, showing the media just how good these guys are and how proud we are to be associated with them,” says Slater.

Each of the chefs will work with Beef + Lamb New Zealand over the course of the year at cooking demonstrations nationwide.

2014 will also see the launch of the Ambassador Chef Series which will see a special ticketed event held in each of the chefs’ restaurants across the year.

Silver Fern Farms to launch retail range into China

Lamb Stir-Fry from Silver Fern Farms' retail range that's heading to China soon. While the majority of the pack will be in English, it will have a Chinese label on the reverse.

Lamb Stir-Fry pack from Silver Fern Farms’ retail range that’s heading to China soon. While the majority of the pack will be in English, it will have a Chinese label on the reverse, the company says.

Silver Fern Farms’ branded retail range of lamb will only be a click away from customers shopping online in Shanghai from March.

The retail range will be sold on-line via distribution and marketing partner NZ Focus who sell a strong stable of New Zealand made branded products in China.

Silver Fern Farms’ group category manager Grant Howie says this is a significant move into the high-end retail category for the company, which has until now been a commodity product exporter into China.

“Going into Shanghai with NZ Focus via the on-line channel, along with using a TV shopping channel puts us in a position where we are close to our consumers which is a real advantage.”

Grant Howie, Silver Fern Farms brand category managerHowie says that China is Silver Fern Farms’ largest market by volume and value off the back of commodity exports of low-mid range lamb and beef cuts. This is the first time a premium consumer branded range will be exported to the market.

“This move will diversify our product range into China, as well as diversifying our channel to market. It is the first time we have put our retail products into China so selling on-line direct makes sense as we can get meaningful feedback from consumers on what they want from our products.”

The online sales will be supported by promotions on a popular home direct TV shopping channel, online promotions and in-store cooking demonstrations.

“The Shanghai market has consumers who look for quality products from New Zealand and they are taking up on-line home shopping in strong numbers. On-line shoppers in China are a small but developing segment of the market but as you can imagine with the size of China it’s got potential for considerable scale for us.” says Howie.

The lamb retail packs will be sold in frozen form; otherwise they are exactly the same as the retail pack products sold in New Zealand – right down to the English language packaging.

“Authenticity of produce is a key concern of Chinese consumers. This is especially the case at the top end of the market where these retail packs are aimed. We take significant pride in being 100 percent made of New Zealand where our lamb is farmed free-range in a natural environment and our retail packaging makes a big point of that.”

Silver Fern Farms has the only meat range being sold through NZ Focus.

“NZ Focus is an excellent partner as they know how to sell the importance of our place – New Zealand, and they have many years’ experience on the ground in China.”

Production for the range is underway and first sales are expected in March. It is envisaged the range will eventually be sold into high-end supermarkets in Shanghai.

Material supplied by Silver Fern Farms.


New Zealand lamb showcased to Chinese visitors and media

New Zealand lamb is set to be showcased to millions of TV viewers in China following a Chinese group’s visit to leading meat exporter and processor Alliance Group this week.

The company is hosting the winners of a prize competition, held in China to mark the launch of a consumer research programme earlier this year. They will be joined by representatives of Alliance Group’s largest Chinese customer Grand Farm and media from Heilongjiang, a province in the north-east of the country.

The delegation will tour Alliance Group’s Lorneville plant near Invercargill where they will view sheepmeat processing, enjoy taste testing and view a cooking demonstration from Southland chef Graham Hawkes.

The group, whose visit will be recorded by Heilongjiang TV and Heilongjiang Radio, will also tour ‘The Rock’, a farm in Castlerock owned by Alliance Group suppliers Brian and Kristine Russell, before departing for Queenstown.

The prize winners took part in a consumer research programme organised by Alliance Group and Grand Farm.

The research, funded by Alliance Group, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Grand Farm, saw Chinese consumers surveyed on the taste and quality of New Zealand lamb, compared to that of Chinese and Inner Mongolian lamb.

Murray Brown.

Murray Brown, general manager marketing for Alliance Group, says the visit was significant for the company as it looked to consolidate its presence in China.

“We recognise that the market has the potential to grow further and we’re looking forward to showing these visitors and the accompanying media the very best Southland and New Zealand has to offer.

“We are particularly pleased our products, including our Pure South lamb, will be on show to viewers in China. This is another example of Alliance Group investing in our markets as we look to increase returns for our suppliers.”

The findings of the consumer programme will be released next year, says Brown.

The coverage of the visit will be the second time that Pure South products have featured on TV in China. Earlier this year, a ‘Chefs Cook Off’ episode was aired to around 12 million viewers. The episode featured top restaurant chefs preparing Pure South lamb and venison dishes for judging.

Meanwhile, Grand Farm representatives will also meet with Alliance Group and visit plants and farms later this month. The companies are progressing a five-point blueprint designed to further grow the business.

Material supplied by Alliance Group.

Quality NZ and Alliance Group open their innings in India

Brendon McCullum at the launch of the Alliance Group-Quality NZ partnership in New DelhiGlobal meat exporter and processor Alliance Group and Quality New Zealand Ltd have signed an exclusive supply deal to develop a new market for premium lamb in India with the help of former and current New Zealand cricket stars.

Quality New Zealand Ltd (QualityNZ), whose shareholders include the current and former New Zealand captains Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori and Stephen Fleming, will be spearheading the push of Alliance Group’s export brand Pure South into India.

QualityNZ launched the Pure South brand in India on 3 October at a function at the New Zealand High Commission in New Delhi. Attended by over 130 senior hotel executives, restaurant owners and leading chefs, the function featured a cooking contest including high-profile cricketers Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori and judged by renowned celebrity Chef Ritu Dalmia.

Geoff Thin, chief executive of QualityNZ’s import business based in India, said:  “The opportunity to develop a market for New Zealand meat in India will take some time, but the potential in terms of volume will create solid demand for meat producers in New Zealand. Sheepmeat in particular is very popular and Indians largely respect the fact that New Zealand is capable of producing some of the best quality meat in the world.

“This event represents an important first step in demonstrating lamb’s taste, tenderness, nutritional qualities and ease of cooking. India is an extremely important market for protein and we are excited about the future.”

Geoff Allott, chief executive of QualityNZ’s New Zealand-based business, New Zealand Cricket board member and former international cricketer, said he was pleased with the Alliance Group agreement.

“We’ve been in discussions with Alliance Group for many months now and we’ve been impressed with the level of professionalism and management capabilities during the due diligence process. Our goal is to work with Alliance Group to develop the Pure South brand in the Indian market to a point where the additional demand will ultimately drive stronger farmer returns.”

John Rabbitt, marketing manager at Alliance Group, said there was considerable interest in lamb from India’s growing middle and upper class.

“India will demand the highest-quality New Zealand lamb and Alliance Group has the global experience and knowledge of exporting to 65 countries around the world. Both Alliance Group and QualityNZ are enthusiastic about the prospects for India.

“Although there is significant potential for Pure South in India, Alliance Group recognises this is not a short term proposition and we are committed to a long term programme.”

In a related sponsorship deal, the Pure South brand has been seen on the leading sleeve of the Otago Volts cricket team, which has been playing in the Champions League tournament in India.

“An opportunity arose through Brendon and Otago Cricket to get on board with the Volts prior to them leaving New Zealand for the tournament,” said Mr Thin.

“While we’re disappointed for them that they narrowly missed out on the semi-finals, we are delighted with their success in the Champions League tournament and it’s created great exposure for the Pure South brand in India.”