The red meat sector is well positioned to build on its $7.15 billion contribution to the New Zealand economy, says Meat Industry Association chairperson John Loughlin.
Across the industry – at farmer, processor, marketer and government levels – there is investment in initiatives to drive better economic returns, improve market access, deliver better environmental sustainability and address the challenges of changing consumer eating trends.
“The industry is working more collaboratively than ever and we have shared aspirations for better outcomes,” says John.
But one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is increasing the profitability of the red meat sector sustainably, says John, because eroding profitability has created an economic imperative for sheep and beef farmers to transfer land use to dairy, forestry or other industries that have offered better returns.
“There has to be a balanced approach to economic and environmental sustainability and that is what the industry is working towards,” says John.
Protecting access to existing markets like the United Kingdom – New Zealand’s biggest sheepmeat export market – and accessing new markets through favourable free trade agreements are critical, says John.
While lamb exports hit a record high of $369 million in May this year, MIA and Beef+LambNZ have recently appointed London-based Jeff Grant to work alongside other NZ industry and government representatives to safeguard our access to the UK following their exit from the European Union.
“We have a two-pronged approach. Not only will Jeff focus on managing the potential threat of Britain’s exit from the EU, he’s also charged with creating the opportunity to expand beef sales in the EU and Britain,” says John.
A global trend toward ethical food consumption means consumers are more discerning about how their food is produced, and where it comes from, and NZ’s almost exclusively free-range grass-fed production system is a key point of difference that we need to better capitalise on, says John.
Responding to the challenge of plant-based meat substitutes like the Impossible Burger – which Air NZ recently began serving on some flights – is also something the industry is working on, says John.
Farmers are more aware of these ethical eating trends than ever before, and a bigger focus on environmentally-sustainable farming practices is evident.
In May Beef+LambNZ launched ‘Taste Pure Nature’ a global brand to underpin red meat exporters’ marketing programmes and increase the demand for premium NZ red meat.
“‘Taste Pure Nature’ will help overseas consumers understand the unique characteristics of our product. It helps tell New Zealand’s red meat story,” says John.
Unlike other sheep and beef producing countries, more than 90 per cent of sheep meat and 80 percent of NZ’s beef products are exported, so responding to global trends as well as driving efficiency within the industry are critical to the future success of the red meat sector.