HALF-BAKED claims, piggybacking and the broader implications of 'jumping on bandwagons' - these are some of the hurdles being faced as Australian beef moves further down the track of branded product.
Two prominent branded beef owners, Queensland's Blair Angus from Signature Beef and Mick Hewitt, whose family-owned business has more than 150,000 livestock across Australia and operates the largest integrated supply chain of certified organic meat, spoke candidly about what makes and breaks a beef brand at the Droughtmaster Society's conference in Brisbane last week.
Brand integrity was everything, Mr Angus said.
"If you tell a consumer this is what you do and it's found to be wrong, that's detrimental to the entire beef industry," he said.
"It upsets me on a daily basis. A major packer in this country has used two of our brands on their products. They are piggybacking off our story. My pockets aren't deep enough to challenge it."
Mr Angus also spoke about the flippant use of broadscale claims, such as a sustainability tick or declarations of being 'ethically raised'.
"In some instances when another level like this is put into a brand, it can denigrate all other beef products," he said.
"The assumption is made that if something doesn't have that tick, it's not sustainable or ethical. When people get onto these bandwagons, they can be denigrating all other beef production inadvertently."
Mr Hewitt's family run properties across the country, have a substantial supplier network and manage a portfolio of consumer brands, including the flagship Cleaver's, Australia's most successful organic meat brand.
The company recently expanded to include pioneering organic industry business, Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Co.
"We live in a world of vigorous certification," Mr Hewitt said.
"One of my big bugbears is we are constantly battling against other brands that are not third party verified - their claims are half baked.
"It just means we have to be really good at communicating the work we do.
"We spend millions a year on telling our story. The world is full of so much messaging today."
Mr Hewitt said the major strategy of supermarkets to move to a private label structure meant meat cases were now full of different brands.
"Research tells us we get the average customer's attention for a maximum of nine seconds," he said.
"How do they understand all the work you've done in that time?
"But if we are not explaining the story well, we are letting down the bloke digging a post hole at Alice Springs in 48 degree heat or the bloke down a freezer in a processing plant at minus 20."
Both brand owners, along with many other presenters at the Droughtmaster conference, spoke about identifying and meeting consumer needs as being the future for Australian beef.
Mr Hewitt said there were different segments within the consumer base, making different demands and with different abilities and willingness to pay.
"We have a very unique custom base in the organic consumer that we see across beef, lamb and pork," he said.
"And it's not as sticky as you might think when times get tough. It's a segment that has quite a lot of price elasticity."
Hewitt meat services 1600 retail facilities every day and also faces into export markets, so has enormous direct contact with consumers.
"It's fascinating to look at the way we consume red meat today compared to how we used to," Mr Hewitt said.
"It's fast evolving. The concept of someone picking up a large piece of red meat and taking it home to consume over a number of days has changed.
"Today, we are creating convenience for customers and adding value that can be passed back upstream."
Every sector of the beef industry had an obligation to 'really understand' all facets of the supply chain, he said.
"There is a lack of knowledge across the board and that has to change," Mr Hewitt said.
"All segments of the industry used to be individual in their approach and we can no longer be like that.
"The most successful Fortune 500 companies are the ones that collaborate."
Mr Angus said there had been extreme circumstances in the world in the past two years that probably should have affected Australia's beef business adversely but that had not.
"It can't stay this good forever but in saying that, as an industry we've moved towards focusing on the consumer and that gives us protection," he said.
"One of things to come from COVID was people started to cook again - our domestic market has been phenomenal."
That meant as logistic challenges, particularly the lack of container shipment, hit the ability to export, more beef was directed to the domestic market but it was absorbed.
"Simple things like container shortages can be our biggest challenges," Mr Angus said.
"If we can't get containers we don't have exports - our free trade agreements are not worth a penny if we can't shift product."