Farming under the spotlight | Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Farming under the spotlight

At a recent Beef + Lamb New Zealand Farming for Profit field day in Central Canterbury, ANZCO Food’s Agribusiness Manager Alan McDermott shared his insight into the challenges and opportunities facing the red meat sector. This is part one of a two-part series.
Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Farm like people are watching you – because they are.

There are around 2.9 billion smart phones in the world and it could take just one photo – or a two-minute video – to destroy the reputation of the red meat industry, says Alan.
“If you have no customer access you have no future.”

He says it is the consumer who ultimately decides how sustainable the red meat value chain is and to ensure sustainability, farmers need to look at their farming practices and ask whether they are acceptable to the NZ public – and to the consumers who buy their products.

The popularity of cooking and food television programmes reflects consumer interest in food and the people who produce it, but producers need to be transparent about their production systems.

“We need to be good at what we are do, be transparent and open for business.”

Alan says farmers are now operating in a low-trust environment due to the public disillusionment of the large-scale food production practices of “Big Food.” Regulators are no longer just governments they are supermarkets and restaurants and international non-government organisations (NGOs) such as animal rights groups.

These NGOs have tapped into international retailers and supermarket chains to help them determine where to buy their products from.

Risks and challenges

Alan lists bobby calves, lamb survival, water quality, soil loss and winter grazing as being real risks to this country’s red meat industry and they are issues the industry needs to own and address.

The price of land versus the value of land makes it difficult for farmers looking to enter and exit the industry and increasing regulation and public perception is also a challenge for the sector. Having to carry the full cost of production will add to these pressures.

Consumer frugality, competition from monogastric, fermented and 3D proteins all reinforce the need for the industry – and the individuals within it – to invest in its reputation.

Alan says the industry needs to engage with the regulators, consumers and public, be proactive and take responsibility for each other.

“You need to have integrity and do the right thing – always.

“Ask yourself – would your family like what you are doing?”

He also called upon farmers to celebrate what they do and get better at telling at their story, but to always be honest.

“Honesty is our competitive advantage.”