PREMIUM beef producer Blackmore Wagyu, which supplies top-end Australian and overseas restaurants, says there is no simple answer to the issue of substitution and fraud.
Questioned about what measures Blackmore had taken to protect itself during a session at ABARES Outlook conference in Canberra this month, David Blackmore spoke candidly about the experiences he'd had in China.
Blackmore Wagyu is offered for as much as $650 a kilogram on menus in prestigious Sydney, Melbourne and Perth restaurants and it is even more expensive globally.
When the brand faced substitution issues in China, there was a lot of discussion about what path to take with everything from bar codes which restaurants could take photos of and send back to Australia for verification to an all-out marketing campaign discussed.
"In the end, what we did was go over to China, meet up with all the chefs and explain in person that if you aren't buying our beef from certain distributors, it's not Blackmore Beef," Mr Blackmore said.
"That's eventually how we got around it.
"In China you can but a bottle of Penfolds grange that looks exactly the same but the P is a B. Penfolds didn't do much complaining about it and we decided on that approach.
"We learnt a lesson from a French company that was seeing its wines substituted and they went to town. They lost all their sales because the Chinese people were no longer confident that if they paid for this brand, they were receiving it."
McDonald's grassfed burger
Fast food restaurant chain McDonald's has launched a new offering in their premium burger line-up made from 100 per cent Australian grassfed beef.
The Grass Fed Beef Burger will be available at McDonald's - albeit takeaway at the moment - nationwide for a limited time.
Accompanying the grass fed beef patty is Australian-sourced Jack cheese, crispy bacon, whole leaf lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, topped-off with creamy garlic aioli and tomato onion relish, served on a white bun.
Jo Feeney, marketing director at McDonald's Australia, said to launch the new grassfed burger, McDonald's would purchase an additional 160 metric tonnes of certified grassfed beef from Australian producers.
Japan regains crown
The full extent to which Australian beef exports will be impacted by the unfolding coronavirus dramas in its key markets, including China, South Korea, Japan and the United States, is still largely unknown.
However, slowing demand from China has pushed Japan into the top destination for Australian beef in February.
February beef exports to China were 16,700 tonnes swt, less than half of the volume sent in December.
Meat & Livestock Australia analysts said taking into account January volumes, 2020 was ahead of 2019 on a year-to-date basis, however, with cattle slaughter taking a significant dip in recent weeks, export volumes were expected to ease in the coming months.
Key bank forecasters believe that while the coronavirus effect in China is a risk that requires careful monitoring, there is reason for confidence that demand will recover quickly given the gross shortage of animal protein resulting from African Swine Fever and the longer-term fundamentals of a growing middle class which can afford beef.
Australian beef exports were 93,000 tonnes swt in February, just 2pc behind this month last year.
Moving with the times
Due to a significant increase in consumer demand for at-home meat products as a result of the virus crisis, Victorian-based meat wholesaler University Meat is offering its range to the broader public for the first time in its 60 year history, with a direct-to-consumer offer.
The new online store will offer beef, lamb, pork, chicken, sausages, cooked meats and smallgoods in 1 kilogram pack sizes.
Home delivery is currently available for Melbourne Metro consumers, with potential plans to expand to interstate and regional locations in the near future.
University Meat Director, Alex Marcocci, believes that in the current climate, community solidarity is critical.
"It's so important to keep supporting each other during this time so we can keep the farmers, our supply chain and employees working in order to put food on the table. We source predominantly from Victorian producers and are proud to be able to offer such quality, local goods to the broader community," he said.