System grading cattle for eating quality has provided a premium for Australian farmers
Beef producers could receive a premium price for the best quality cattle, if UK consumers were prepared to pay for it in the same way as Australians do.
British consumers believe beef to be expensive with price a poor indicator of quality but the Australia system gas attempted to create a better eating experience for consumers.
In the 1990s, Australian beef consumption was declining; perceived as variable and unsatisfactory. But research showed consumers were willing to pay more, if it guaranteed quality and tenderness.
Speaking at the AHDB beef and livestock stakeholder seminar, Josh Anderson, international business manager for Europe and Russia at Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), warned: “It can take up to twelve weeks for consumers to return to beef after a poor eating experience.”
To tackle this, the industry introduced a system based on quality, which pays out based on the eating quality for all cuts in the carcase.
Now, Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grass fed cattle receive a £38/head premium, with grain fed receiving a £20/head premium and while people are still consuming less, they are paying more.
“If we had not we think returns would have been a lot worse,” Mr Anderson added.
“From the supermarket point of view, it is a system which underpins brands.”
MLA was working alongside AHDB to discover whether some of the system could be tailored for the British beef industry and was currently conducting taste panels which would show whether the UK consumer was compatible.
AHDB international market development director Dr Phil Hadley suggested the system could work alongside some form of the current EUROP grid following a consultation on the system.
He said some had suggested a clean break but many felt a gradual change was more appropriate, particularly as the UK looked to gain a trade deal with the European Union.
“Maybe it is an evolution, not a revolution,” he added.