We spoke to Blair Angus, Chair of Beef Australia to find out why the May event promises to be the biggest and best yet and what he sees as the biggest opportunities for our industry.

Your website promises this to be the ‘biggest and best Beef Australia yet’. Can you give us an insider’s view on the best things see and do?

This year the Expo will open a night earlier, Sunday, May 6, with not only the QCL Nose to Tail Dinner but fantastic entertainment on the Ergon Energy Stage and a host of dining options naturally featuring succulent Australian Beef.

With the Labor Day public holiday moving back to Monday, May 7, we have introduced ‘People’s Day’ offering a packed entertainment schedule including headline act Troy Cassar-Daley & Fanny Lumsden performing live, specialty events and discounted $10 entry. We have stretched the fences to have over 500 trade sites, 30 food vendors and five restaurants operating throughout the week.

At the core of Beef Australia, we have our three big cattle competitions, watching a snippet of these should be on everyone’s to do list during the week. Throughout the week we also have 11 of Central Queensland’s producers very kindly opening their gates to give visitors a first-hand insight into the operations of our leading stud and commercial cattle operations.

For those who want to extend their knowledge we have 45 seminars throughout the week and the CQUniversity Industry Symposium on Global Disruption on Tuesday, May 8. The Industry Symposium offers expert insight into the latest market trends and the future of the beef industry in the digital landscape that we now operate within. This Symposium is only once every three years, so I would encourage all beef industry stakeholders to grab this opportunity with both hands.

The Celebrity Chef program is back again after the huge success from 2015.  We have some sensational chefs cooking in the kitchen including Iron Chef Sakai from Japan, Matt Golinski from Brisbane, Australia’s own Curtis Stone and many more.  We are overwhelmed by the support from the industry and region with many of the PwC Celebrity Chef Restaurant sittings and social events throughout the week already selling out. If there are specific events you want to head along to I would encourage you to get in quick to avoid disappointment.

Since its inception in 1988, Beef Australia has been instrumental in driving the industry forward. What are some of its key achievements, in your opinion?

This year we will be celebrating 30 years since the inception of Beef Australia. Every three years the event has grown from strength to strength and is now arguably the world’s leading beef expo. This is an achievement in itself, and a testament to the hard work of all our stakeholders and volunteers who make this event happen every three years.

We have received record entries for the ANZ Carcase Competition, Ruralco Commercial Cattle Competition and Landmark Stud Cattle Competition. We are proud to facilitate these three competitions that producers want to use to benchmark their cattle against the best in the nation.  The committees that run these competitions put in hours of their time to ensure these competitions are of a national standard, so I thank them for this.

Beef Australia places great importance on the next generation and have organised a strong next generation program, including the Graeme Action Beef Connections Mentor Program and the Schools Program which will see a record of over 3500 school students come through the gates during the week.  It is great to see so many of the next generation taking an interest in the beef sector, it gives me great confidence in the future of our industry.

The CQUniversity Industry Symposium at this year’s event, is taking on the subject of Global Disruption. What do you see as emerging trends globally, that could disrupt or effect the Australian market?

We have invited several world class speakers and industry experts to present at the CQUniversity Industry Symposium to give all of us a better insight into the effects global disruption will have on the Australia beef industry.

Global Disruption, specifically in reference to trade and market access has been and will continue to be a hot topic.  Keeping international doors open and finding new and better ways to reach our ultimate consumers on a global basis is key to maintaining growth and underlying strength in our industry.  We need to be on the front foot in addressing future challenges and being on the front foot, showcasing the best that we do is what this expo is all about. The CQUniversity Industry Symposium in combination with the extensive seminar program is about both promoting change and disruption on our horizon, it also provides an excellent conduit for extension and feedback to and from our very grass roots.

You’ve stated that the Beef industry is in a ‘state of heightened growth and innovation’ and as such, will hold a ‘Pitch to Paddock’ event at this year’s Beef Australia, where Agtech entrepreneurs can pitch their business idea to a panel of leading industry experts. What innovations should we be looking out for in 2018?

With the boom in technology over the last decade we have seen a lot of research and innovation in the beef industry.  At Pitch in the Paddock we are expecting to see a variety of concepts tailored to the needs of different sectors of the industry’s supply chain. These might vary from on-farm sensors, geo fencing, location and behaviour tracking technologies, drone adaption and apps, as well as satellite technology, genotyping technologies, and lifetime tracking technology.  The calibre of the panel of judges alone demonstrates the import role that agriculture is playing in driving economic growth.  The innovations will all be revealed in detail at Pitch in the Paddock on Wednesday, May 9 at 2pm.

As well as being the Chair for Beef Australia, you own 4 properties in Queensland; breeding, backgrounding and lotfeeding and a company ‘Signature Beef’, so you’re clearly passionate about the Aussie beef industry. What do you see as its biggest strengths and challenges in the current market?

In over 19 years of selling branded beef we have not faced as many market access challenges as we face right now.  Federal Government and industry have to work together on new strategies as we face a new dynamic in international trade.  On the ground , on the farm, I have never seen a period where more farmers are investing in innovation and trying new things or have had more of a focus on delivering improved environmental outcomes and a better product,  It is exciting to be part of this industry in a phase like this and it is my strong desire that we continue to promote our strengths.  I liken our industry to mustering a mob of cattle, you really need to focus on showing a lead and a direction rather than getting on the tall and yelling.

Finally, your company ‘Signature Beef’ has four beef brands in 24 countries. Which international markets are the most receptive to Australian Beef and which are next to open?

Australia has long focused on a clean and green promotional bent.  That is our base line and our core business, however over the last five years or so we have seen Australia, rightfully take its place as the best quality product in the world.  From the accolades at the World Steak Challenge (and a special mention to Jacks Creek for their outstanding achievements) to NH Food’s success in outdoing the USA on their own BBQ, to our ICMJ teams grading above the best in the world, Australia is on top and that is firmly where our industry belongs.