Too much spent on chasing interest groups down wombat holes, beef producers told

Too much spent on chasing interest groups down wombat holes, beef producers told

Beef
SPEAKING UP: Central Queensland producer David Hill lashed out at falsehoods about beef and the environment coming from within the industry, as well as outside it, at a seminar in Rockhampton this week.

SPEAKING UP: Central Queensland producer David Hill lashed out at falsehoods about beef and the environment coming from within the industry, as well as outside it, at a seminar in Rockhampton this week.

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How to combat falsehoods about beef and environment put under the microscope

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HOW much the opinions of agenda groups working to shut down animal production actually count was a key topic put under the microscope at a beef industry event in Rockhampton this week.

Hosted by Agforce Queensland, The Business of Beef was run live at the Central Queensland Livestock Exchange as part of Brahman Week proceedings, as well as being live streamed.

A question on the best way to combat falsehoods about beef production and the environment brought passionate responses from the four well known northern producers who headlined the event.

Bryce Camm, who oversees his family's integrated beef and cropping enterprise with interests across Queensland and is the current chairman of Beef Australia, along with being president of the Australian Lot Feeders' Association, questioned how much money, and time and energy, the industry had spent "chasing every interest group down every wombat hole trying to appease them."

Bryce Camm

Bryce Camm

How to deal with those against the beef industry was something 'we've been talking about for eons,' he said.

"What strikes me now is that it's not something just relating to the beef industry or to agriculture," he said.

"This is the time of Trump - you've only got to watch what is going on in the US election to take the view that mistruths are not the greatest problem anymore.

"The reality is those who throw stones at us, whether it be about land clearing or damage to the reef, are a minute portion of the population.

"Granted we need to keep an eye on them but they're never going to be our friends.

"We have to cop it on the chin, the Wilderness Society will never be our best friends - their agenda is completely against us and we need to start owning that and answering to the fact that is the case."

Mr Camm said the global pandemic had shown where allegiances are and what's important to people.

"That story starts with people, with economics and with national security - these are all strong suits that our industry has in spades," he said

"When we actually focus on the human element or economic impact element of our story, we win out."

Enemy within

Central Queensland's David Hill runs a breeding and fattening operation at Clarke Creek with wife Liz and has served as a producer representative on numerous industry bodies, including being the inaugural northern independent director for Cattle Council.

Mr Hill lashed out at mistruths coming from within the industry, from projects funded by producer levies.

Referring to materiality work conducted as part of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework (ABSF), he said industry documents had included the claim there had been a tripling of vegetation clearing in Queensland from 2009/10 to 2013/14.

"I get very angry when I hear Queensland referred to as a tree clearing hotspot," he said.

"In fact, we have not been able to clear any remnant vegetation for beef production since 1999."

The type of information he'd prefer industry sustainability groups be promoting: "Scientists saying ruminant agriculture makes an extraordinarily positive environmental contribution.

"Or scientists talking about the need for millions more animals to avert climate change and the role cattle play in providing food from the 70 per cent of the world's non-arable land."

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Meaningful communication

Queensland beef producer and food manufacturer Mark Davie, who has recently joined the ABSF steering group, said all the opposing forces the beef industry faces on every front - be it deforestation, animal welfare or fake meat - rely on a lack of understanding in the general public.

But promoting the truth had to be done in a meaningful way, he said.

Consumers were wise to a sales pitch, and that's why tools like the ABSF were important. Stories had to be backed by data.

Mark Davie.

Mark Davie.

Mr Davie spoke about the great challenge of overcoming the numerous sources of misinformation by first understanding where consumers were obtaining information from.

Supermarkets, butchers and food manufacturers were becoming an increasingly important source of information on the environmental impacts of beef, he said.

Together they equate for 46pc of the information sources consumers rely on.

Mr Davie said it was critical the industry disseminated a meaningful message across the many platforms.

Turn to the consumer

Brahman producer Russell Lethbridge, from Werrington Cattle Company, a commercial breeding, growing and fattening enterprise with stock run across four properties in North and Central Queensland that has been in the family for 118 years, agreed the story had to be consistent and backed by science.

Russell Lethbridge.

Russell Lethbridge.

The story was around how beef producers are committed to food produced in a clean, green and humane way, he said.

"We must never give these groups credibility by allowing ourselves to get into a defensive position," he said.

Mr Lethbridge conveyed his experience in attempting to talk with live export protestors to explain the positive contribution the Australian industry had made to animal welfare.

"I might as well have been speaking to the post beside them. They'd already made up their mind," he said.

The message: Don't waste our time, turn to the consumer instead.

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