(Video Credit: Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade)

Stockyard Beef now exports its products throughout the world from the integrated lot-feeding and marketing operation, located in South-East Queensland. Drawing on over 30 years of experience across the beef supply chain, RMAC Director and Chair of the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC), Lachie shares his views on building a premium wagyu brand, international exports and what lies ahead for Australian red meat.

This year Stockyard Beef marked its 60th year in business and is Australia’s most awarded beef brand. What do you think is the secret to its success?

I often reflect on this question because there is no easy answer. I put this down to a number of factors that make up our organisational culture, including:

  • our people engaged throughout the supply chain, who are valued for their commitment and passion to produce a high-quality product every day of the year;
  • our suppliers of genetics, livestock, grain and other services who we collaborate with to meet the ever- increasing standards set by our customers;
  • our commitment to innovation and data analysis that constantly challenge the status quo; and
  • our systems and procedures that deliver consistency and reliability

You have played a key part in diversifying trade and market access for the Australian beef industry. How has trade to international markets changed over the years? 

Australia is well positioned to take advantage of market access opportunities as they present themselves. Over the last 20 or so years, we have seen the trade rules shift away from multilateral agreements e.g WTO negotiations towards sovereign bilateral agreements.

The current Government has been very successful in achieving Free Trade Agreements in all of the premium markets – USA, Korea, Japan and China; and hopefully we will see the most ambitious agreement – TPP11 come into force within the next 8 months; and FTAs with EU and Britain will follow.

I believe global harmony can only be achieved through open trade so we will see more and more trade agreements being negotiated reducing tariffs and removing quotas for our products. Perhaps the biggest challenge however, will be removing Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) that are growing in number and impacting on our ability to trade efficiently and effectively. AMIC is determined to make this an imperative for our Government and I am pleased that we are starting to get bipartisan support from the Federal Government for our initiatives.

What do you see as the future emerging markets for Aussie beef?

This is a good news story for our industry. We are seeing strong growth in many of the emerging markets of Asia and the Middle East, at the same time that our traditional markets are growing their demand for Australian meat. I don’t see the demand for our clean and healthy product will be a problem in the future.

Our challenge will be in accessing these markets and ensuring our product remains affordable to our customers. Our processing sector is not competitive in comparison to other meat export nations, so we have to find ways to reduce our cost of operations, regulation and compliance. A lot of work, research and development is being done in this area.

Your family was one of the early adopters of the wagyu breed to your feedlot, and your contribution to this sector has meant you were this year inducted into the Wagyu Hall of Fame. How did you go about developing your wagyu brand and establishing it as a premium Australian beef product internationally?

The product speaks for itself. Well-bred wagyu beef that has been raised and fed properly is an amazing product; very tender and with a rich succulent flavor, each and every bite. We haven’t always got it right and we have learnt from our mistakes over the last 25 years to get it right. Once you have achieved consistency in quality and reliability in supply, it is very easy to establish a brand around it.

As well as managing Stockyard Beef, you also Chair the Australian Meat Industry Council  (AMIC), which held a Butchers Challenge at this year’s Beef Australia, attended by Minister Littleproud and recently held a dinner for key Ministers in Canberra. What are the big game changers for the post-farm gate red meat industry looking to the next Federal election?    

I have touched on some of these issues already; but we at AMIC are focused on:

  • Having our sector recognized by our politicians, stakeholders and the community as being a necessary and important part of the red meat supply chain that contributes towards the viability of our local communities, the industry and the Australian economy.
  • Reducing the cost of production by:
    • seeking opportunities to reduce the cost of regulation and compliance;
    • improving access to energy that is both reliable and affordable; and
    • improving access to labour.
  • Improving access to markets through;
    • successful FTA negotiations,
    • reduction of NTBs.

Other thoughts

The post farm gate sector that represents the processors, manufacturers and retailers has had its fair share of negative focus from various producers, politicians and regulators over the last couple of years.

As a person that is passionate about our industry, I was enormously disappointed by this constant attack on our industry and on the integrity of our people and systems employed. In every industry, particularly the one our size, you will always find people who are aggrieved for one reason or another. Regretfully the noise from the minority has drowned out the silent majority who are getting on with the job, developing strong alliances up and down the supply chain for the betterment of all involved.

As an industry, we should be proud of what we are achieving; of our significant contribution to the Australian economy; of the quality red meat and livestock we are producing for markets throughout the world. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy, with many examples of in-house fighting between different sectors and/or interest groups within our Industry.

My dream is for a united industry all working towards a shared vision.

As we now embark on the next strategic roadmap for the industry, this will provide us with a wonderful opportunity to get involved in this process to achieve a viable and sustainable industry well into the future.