In the past weeks we’ve seen increased criminal activity by extremist groups targeting feedlots and processing plants across the country; and hyperbole and speculation of a meat tax on Australia’s red meat customers as part of the broader climate change debate in the lead in to the Federal Election.

Not a week goes by where red meat businesses – our butchers, our producers, our lot feeders, our retailers, our manufacturers and exporters – come under fire in some part of the Australian media; and through it the Australian community.

Everyone from mum and dad producers to major processors are impacted by our ability to respond as an industry to major challenges.

The NT Cattleman’s Conference – High Steaks – showed the divergence of challenges and issues in just one region of our mighty country including native title, livestock exports and drought and a clear desire for change through calls for an extra optional levy to help defend and promote the industry.

Change is upon us whether we would like it or not because the world we live in is fast paced, not fact checked – and when it comes to red meat, this can literally end part of our markets overnight.

That’s not even taking into account the floods, the fires and the horrific drought all members of our supply chain have experienced recently, and extending back the last eight years. The impacts and consequences of these extreme weather events are not yet even known on our people, our land and our livestock.

That’s why getting the governance of red meat right matters to everyone.

The industry – all 82,500 of our brother and sister businesses – is heavily impacted external forces that extend far beyond the shopfronts, farm gates, facilities and feedlots of red meat businesses all over Australia.

And these forces are most certainly not all bad. Demand for our beautiful product is exceptional, our export markets strong and our consumers here in Australia loyal and committed to high quality red meat.

Getting the governance right should mean being able to more aggressively pursue value adding and sustainability opportunities whether you are in livestock or red meat to create more wealth throughout the supply chain.

Nevertheless, the scale of external forces and challenges to red meat businesses can seem endless – climate debate, animal welfare versus animal activists, low levels of investment, changing red meat consumer patterns, and technological disruption.

No business operates as an island, and individual businesses cannot effectively manage these challenges on their own. Industry must step up and take the reins as a collective and better utilise it’s not insignificant assets to counter these external forces and threats.

It’s clear that real reform is needed to ensure we have a capable, streamlined and high performing industry over the next 30 years that can strategically and tactically deal with these influences, better engage our customers, better engage Aussie voters and better help industry deal with the rapidly changing world around them. 

If we don’t properly manage any one of those critical issues facing the industry, we could face failure. 

That is why RMAC called an Independent Review of the Red Meat MOU which looks at how industry research, marketing, public policy and crisis management is dealt with and looks at – in light of these new challenges and opportunities – how we can do better.

We can be rightly proud of what we have achieved in the 20 years since the Red Meat MOU was first created, but only you – as businesses out there on the ground – know the important flashpoint issues and opportunities that are important to the prosperity of your business.

Submissions on the independent Taskforce’s Green Paper of options to reform the red meat industry’s governance are due by next Monday 15 April. But please don’t wait until then: take the time to articulate your thoughts today.

When it comes to how we can do things better, no idea is bad and no idea is too small. Cast your mind back to one of the many recent incidents and let us know what or how industry could have helped better? Would it have been more expert advisors on ground and in hand, an Agricultural Commissioner investigating activist acts or a campaign for the sustainability of our industry direct to consumers and voters? Would it be red meat production on the curriculum in schools?

Putting pen to paper and providing a submission may be difficult. But it’s critical you do so. As Chair of the Red Meat Advisory Council, I can assure you this in not “just another review.”

There are three ways to provide comments on the Green Paper:

Don Mackay
Chair, Red Meat Advisory Council