Meat & Livestock Australia rebukes criticism of ‘world-leading’ program

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Meat Standards Australia was developed by the Australian red meat industry to improve the eating quality consistency of beef and sheepmeat
Meat Standards Australia was developed by the Australian red meat industry to improve the eating quality consistency of beef and sheepmeat

Related tags: Meat

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has hit back at criticism from the Australian Beef Association over its meat quality program.

MLA is the levy board responsible for beef and lamb in Australia and in 1999 it established Meat Standards Australia (MSA), a meat grading program tasked with improving the consistent quality of red meat.

A recent – and independent – impact assessment on the program described it as “one of MLA’s biggest success stories​”. And a spokesperson for the levy board told this site the report highlights the economic benefits the MSA program has had on the red meat sector.

The world-leading MSA eating quality program has gone from strength to strength in recent years, attracting more participants and delivering significant farmgate returns for Australian producers,​” said an MLA spokesperson.

MSA was developed by the Australian red meat industry to improve the eating-quality consistency of beef and sheepmeat. The system is based on over 700,000 consumer taste tests by more than 100,000 consumers from nine countries and takes into account all factors that affect the eating quality of the 169 cuts and cooking combinations within a carcase.

Last year, the MSA program delivered an additional AUD$185 million in farmgate revenue thanks to the price premiums paid for MSA-accredited and compliant cattle.​”

$679m benefit

These comments came after David Byard, chief officer at the Australian Beef Association, said MSA was not benefiting beef producers​ and that its practices had been “watered down​”. Despite professing his admiration for a program he called “the greatest ever going​”, Byard told GlobalMeatNews change was needed.

MLA, which funds the MSA program, has rebuked this claim and in a statement sent to GlobalMeatNews​, the same spokesperson from MLA outlined the impact of the scheme.

A recent independent performance review looked at the return generated by all MLA programs over the last five years. It showed that more than one third of adult cattle slaughtered are being presented for MSA grading in 2014-15, up from 17% in 2009-10, with grassfed cattle premiums having more than doubled over this time from 15¢/kg to now average 33¢/kg and producers are now receiving an additional $91/head.​”

Importantly, the review found that the eating quality program yields current and future benefits of $679m and a benefit cost ratio of 12.5:1. That’s $12.50 returned for every $1 invested – one of MLA’s best performing programs.

Through MSA and our eating-quality programs, MLA has helped raise consumers’ confidence in beef quality and the results speak for themselves. More consumers are prepared to pay more for beef, more producers are registering for MSA, more cattle are being MSA graded, more brands are becoming MSA licensed and more premiums are being paid.

Beef consumption is declining in all major Western countries; however, Australians are still one of the world’s largest consumers of beef, paying record prices for beef. Hence while volume consumed has declined, the value of the Australian market has increased.

Given consumers are paying more for beef than ever before, it is critical that their expectations are met – therefore successful eating-quality programs are vital. The Australian red meat industry should be commended for identifying that consumers are the most important client in the supply chain and critical to the success of the industry.​”

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