Farming Under the Spotlight: Part Two

In part two of a series looking at the challenges and opportunities facing the red meat sector, ANZCO Food’s agribusiness manager Alan McDermott talks about customer satisfaction, quality assurance and next steps for farmers.
Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Total Quality Management

While farmers’ management practices may be beyond reproach, unless it is written down it didn’t happen – “this is the world we live in.” Farmers need to record what they do to prove to all the other stakeholders in the value chain that they are farming with integrity.

Alan says very few people will pay for ecosystem services – they are expected to happen – but environmental protection and enhancement collectively contributes to a story which could help generate a premium for a product.

Customer satisfaction

The customer is right. Always. This means producers and processors need to deliver what the customer wants – but producers and processors also have a role in educating the consumer about their farming systems.

This means turning complex farming systems into simple messages.

“Farming is very complex so it is often very difficult to explain why we do what we do in a sound bite.”

Most customers spend 10-15 seconds selecting a product and maybe up to 30 seconds for a higher engagement product – so the industry needs to deliver simple messages.

While producers are not typically selling directly to the end user, Alan says they need to treat the next person down the value chain as their customers whether they are processors or finishers.

Collaboration

Alan believes there is real opportunity for farmers to collaborate up and down the supply chain. This means moving from opportunistic and sometimes adversarial behaviour, and insular, self-centred highly complex farming systems to alliances which will generate the benefits of scope and scale.

“We need breeders and finishers to connect up and even better match their farming systems with the land resources and environment.

“Taking time to invest in collaboration provides scale and scope and I see considerable value sitting in that space.”

New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme

This was set up by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) to avoid duplication for farmers and processors, and to give a single, consistent quality assurance NZ-specific programme for customers.

The NZFAP includes animal welfare, food safety, traceability and some aspects of environmental sustainability. Fifteen processors are on-board with the scheme and since it came into being in late 2017, nearly 2000 farm audits have been completed.

Work has commenced on a new bolt-on programme for sustainable and ethical farm assurance to help farmers achieve greater profitability and on-farm sustainability, as well as demonstrating to the NZ public that farmers are doing the right thing.

It will also provide customers with confidence that their broader expectations of farmers are being met.

The programme will include standards around people, animal welfare and well-being, environmental management and biosecurity.

The next stage is fitting management systems with land classes, carrying out risk assessments, ensuring activities are documented (e.g., farm environment plans) and taking photos and keeping records to verify what farmers are doing on farm. An independent audit is essential so everybody has confidence and trust in farm practices and outcomes.

“We want to get ahead of policy makers and provide them with solutions.”

Next steps for farmers

Alan says farmers need to understand their value chain and think about how they can work to improve it.

Red meat producers must understand and manage their strategic risks and always farm with integrity.

“We must not tolerate anybody in the value chain not doing the right things.”

Three emerging challenges

  1. Shelter – The government and NGOs have expressed concerned about the lack of shelter on farms throughout the country. This is also linked with lamb survival and animal welfare.
  2. Pain relief – Specifically at castration and tailing. Alan says this is something the industry will need to think about and ask why they are tailing lambs, particularly those destined for the processor before flystrike becomes an issue.
  3. Winter grazing – Mud is a problem and seeing animals up to their hocks in mud is a real animal welfare and environmental issue. Winter grazing systems are something the industry needs to find solutions to quickly.

“It’s about being innovative in the way we deal with these issues,” says Alan.