FROM the rise of China as a customer to sharing red meat's stories through virtual reality, change has been a constant in the eight years Dr Michele Allan has served as chair of the most influential organisation in Australia's red meat industry, Meat & Livestock Australia.
She will step down today at MLA's annual general meeting in Tamworth, with Victorian Angus breeder Alan Beckett taking up the reins.
Dr Allan, who has an academic background in biomedical science, management and law and also holds board positions with the likes of Graingrowers, Nuffield Australia, Wine Australia and the CSIRO, reflected on her time with MLA at the organisation's annual conference Red Meat 2019 last night.
She listed the progress of objective carcase measurement technology dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA, and other automation in processing plants, as one of the highlights achieved over the past decade.
Alongside that, the commercial release of a new pysllid-resistant species of leucaena, the signing of free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China, advancements in genetics and genomics, Australian red meat on more shelves and menus around the world and Meat Standards Australia delivering record high farm gate returns were key highlights, she said.
Dr Allan joined MLA in 2011, at a time of well-above-average rainfall and when the industry was grappling with the impacts of the live cattle ban to Indonesia.
The Australian dollar was at parity with the US dollar and nearly 70 per cent of beef exports went to just three markets - the US, Japan and Korea.
"There were forecasts back then about the opportunities that would emerge from the growing middle class, particularly China. It was a time when our beef exports to China represented less than 1pc," Dr Allan said.
Not only is the Aussie dollar at a more agreeable level today but global demand for our red meat is in terrific condition, we are realising the opportunities in China and Australia is far less reliant on the top three markets.
We send red meat to more than 100 markets.
China is on the brink of becoming Australia's largest beef export market in 2019. In the first nine months of this year, it accounted for 22pc of our total exports, Dr Allan reported.
"Even before African Swine Fever and the substitution away from pork to beef in China our beef exports had been building solidly in this market," she said.
A pivotal time in MLA's history was the senate inquiry into industry structures and systems governing grass-fed cattle levies, Dr Allan said.
"The findings of the review were difficult to hear but as a company we had to listen and become more transparent to our levy payers," she said.
"We responded to the call for grass-fed producers to have a greater influence over the board selection process. Amendments were made to the constitution that resulted in greater producer representation on the board selection committee, with board members becoming observers only.
"The senate inquiry gave MLA a razor-sharp focus on levy payers."
Also re-invented was the way producer input into research and development happened, and at this year's Red Meat that has been taken a step further with a keener focus on embedding adoption into the process.
Change really is the new normal, Dr Allan said, pointing to this year's review of the industry's Memorandum of Understanding and the recently-announced review into rural research and development corporations.
MLA would need to remain agile to meet the new opportunities and challenges, she said.
"I'll be looking on from the sidelines and watching the next chapter of the Australian red meat story unfold," she said.
MLA managing director Jason Strong acknowledged and thanked Dr Allan for her service to the MLA Board since 2011, and in particular as MLA chair since 2013.
"Dr Allan has made a significant contribution not only to MLA through disciplined governance and strategic insight but to the broader red meat industry during her time on the MLA board. As chair, Dr Allan has been at the forefront of driving the strategic direction of MLA - ensuring MLA delivers value for levy-payers and our industry in the short-term, while looking forward at the opportunities and challenges to prepare our industry for the future," Mr Strong said.