THE FORAY of Australia’s red meat processing industry into the social media realm is paying big dividends in terms of putting both abattoir operators and livestock producers in a ‘conversation leading’ position on trending topics like animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
It’s also proving a brilliant method for getting the message out about the sector’s massive contribution to rural economies.
This has been highlighted at a national conference in Sydney this week, hosted by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC), the research, development and extension provider for processors.
Scientists, academics, consultants, producers and processors from throughout the country are at the event.
AMPC chairman Peter Noble told delegates the industry recognised the importance of social media in getting its messages out to the world.
“Last month, we commissioned research that found online discussion surrounding red meat processing in Australia is dominated by polarising views of the live export trade,” he said.
“Onshore processing takes a back seat in the debate and our industry overall is often painted as not transparent enough.
“Given the potential consequences of poor reputation management, we have adopted a social media strategy which now sees us on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.”
The initiative marks the first time the sector has taken a serious step towards engaging with members and the public via social media.
Mr Noble said it had proven a great way to engage with, and create positive dialogue among, producers, processors, politicians, consumers and rural media.
“In just one month, we have had 13,000 Tweet impressions and 4,300 impressions on LinkedIn,” he said.
“On Facebook our videos have reached over 25,000 people in the short time that they have been live and we’ve received predominantly positive comments throughout this time.
“What’s more, by sharing key points from our Feast of Ideas Sustainability Report on social media we have been able to control the conversation around the challenges we face.
“This platform is clearly one that engages audiences and AMPC believes it can be used to help promote our industry as open and transparent.”
The conference heard the red meat industry was the foundation on which many rural communities were built.
It contributes $23 billion annually to the nation’s gross domestic product and employs 134,000 people.
“But it has changed phenomenally over the past 20 years and continues to do so,” Mr Noble said.
“Changing climate, consumption patterns and the regulatory environment bring new challenges that threaten the entire value chain.
“The value chain itself is fragmented, reflecting an industry that is disconnected.
“And the convergence of factors such as animal welfare and environmental impacts are bringing uncertainty around our social licence to operate.”
However, the red meat processing business was a resilient one and there were plenty of positives to highlight, he said.
“Far from being threatened by the challenges we face, the AMPC and its partners are transforming them into exciting opportunities in a host of different ways,” he said.
Many of those were outlined during yesterday’s line-up of international and local speakers.
From robotic picking and packing to blades that stop on sensing worker’s gloves and from the use of bovine tissue and blood to boost immune systems to science that transforms the texture of meat, the list of innovations in the business appears endless.
The sector is also investing significantly in improving education and employment opportunities.
The event yesterday hosted the first graduation ceremony for the Graduate Certificate of Agribusiness, a postgraduate vocational qualification developed specifically for senior members of agrifood industries.
The conference continues today with Australian Livestock Exporters Council chairman Simon Crean speaking, along with extensive discussion on the concept of a social licence to operate and value chain integration.