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Australian Beef Association

Premium or Not?

An interview with Jason Strong, Meat and Livestock Australia’s MD, caught my eye where he was quoted as saying, “A growing number of consumers can and will pay a premium for beef”.  I am quite confident, that many consumers would pay a premium for exactly that, “Premium” beef.

My question is, what does the MLA consider premium beef?  When a producer sells cattle, they are paid on dentition, meaning the amount of teeth that each animal has. A beast with two or no permanent teeth bring the best price on most processors’ grids, however as more teeth erupt, the price goes down.

Once the boxes of primals leave a processing plant they are sold according to age by dentition, example: Y means no permanent teeth and YG  2 permanent teeth.  The list goes on until you get, C, eight teeth or teeth falling out.

Processors price list for steaks also goes on the dentition of the animal, however there is nothing to stop a wholesaler, retailer or restaurateur purchasing a heavily discounted, inferior product and then on-selling as a first-rate product.  To my way of thinking, this has done a vast amount of damage to our beef consumption in Australia, due to inconsistency in quality.

Jason is quoted as saying, “There has been much investment going into making Australian beef a high-quality, fully traceable, and consistent product.
To me, this statement smacks of ignorance or arrogance, I am not sure which. When cuts from older discounted cattle can be sold as prime beef and all traceability can be lost after the knocking box.

These issues could be rectified by retailers and food services being obliged to have barcode readers and record documentation from all cartons of beef. Insuring a full tracing system from the gate to the plate and safeguard the rules around people selling an inferior quality beef.  Imagine if the MLA had the audacity to suggest this?

Surely the time has come to actually gather steak by mystery shoppers, totally independent of the MLA and then trial through a cooking, taste test to find out exactly how consistent and good, the normal consumer is likely to find Australian steak.

If the red meat industry is serious about traceability, then all parts of the chain must cooperate. To try and cover-up cracks is a complete waste of time and producer’s money.

David Byard, ABA Executive Officer
Mobile: 0409 426 710 
Phone: 03 6326 8960

Email: ausbeef@bigpond.com
Website: http://austbeef.com.au 
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