FROM what sustainability really means to flexitarians and information flow through the supply chain, everything was on the table for discussion at the lot feeding sector's annual conference in Dalby last week.
Smart Beef 2019 set a hectic pace led by engaging and entertaining presenters and one of the most lively conversations featured a panel of seedstock experts and processor representatives dissecting supply chain dynamics.
Facilitator Andrew Talbot, the general manager at Elders' Killara Feedlot in Quirindi, kicked the session off by asking about Australia's competitive advantage.
Livestock manager with Mort & Co Brett Campbell listed traceability, a clean and green image, Meat Standards Australia grading and a well-regarded food safety reputation as overarching traits.
But there were many other areas where Australia's versatility provided valuable options, such as hormone growth promotant-free beef into China, he said.
"And even in such dry seasons we have continued to produce quality cattle, with our feedlotting sector expanding - so we have consistency," he said.
Prue Bondfield, from seedstock and commercial operation Palgrove, said Australia's progressive work in the area of sustainability could now be considered a competitive advantage.
"Others look at Australia as the good guys in this space - we got together early, thought about this, involved cow-calf producers through to processors and came up with a sustainability framework," she said.
Working collaboratively in sustainability has not been the case in other countries, particularly the United States and Canada.
"As processors increasingly rely on brands and flow-through supply chains based on sustainability and carbon neutrality, this is a real advantage," Mrs Bondfield said.
She also noted the big leaps in market access and Australia's ability to both identify and supply niche markets.
"We're a small player and we've learnt to turn that to our advantage and be flexible and provide a product no one else can. You have to take your hat off to the people who've found these incredible niche markets."
For beef, the concept of sustainability centred around looking at other people's opinion of the industry rather than our own, Mrs Bondfield said.
Banks were working on natural capital as a big part of their business. Lending priority to those operating within a sustainability framework was not too far in the future, she said.
"Those financial companies are now having to deal in their own boardrooms with how they are reporting on aspects of sustainability. Whenever a bank has to think about risks they look at both the individual but also the industry," she said.
"We won't be here in 20 years if we don't take more care of social licence."
The panelists agreed many emerging consumer trends provided more opportunity for beef than threat.
"Data is telling us a bunch of people are calling themselves flexitarian, in that one or two days of the week they deliberately buy something not meat," Teys Tom Maguire said.
"They do that because they think it's better for them and better for the environment.
"We can demonstrate we have a natural product that meets their needs. We have 'natural' credentials to show off."
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