AUSTRALIAN beef producers are pinning their hopes on a new multi-million dollar beef grading scheme to stem the rise in chicken meat consumption.
Beef narrowly holds the title of Australias most popular meat – a fact that would have UK beef farmers salivating. And in the USA, chicken has also taken over as the meat of choice.
But the Australian beef industry is not going down without a fight. It will spend A$14.5 million (US$9.4m/£5.8m) on its new beef grading scheme, Meat Standards Australia (MSA), which will be implemented into butchers and supermarkets across the country over the next 12 months.
Cattle Council of Australia executive director Justin Toohey said he was confident the scheme could stop the chicken surge. “We believe we can certainly slow it down if not stop it,” he told The Weekly Times.
He said the industry recognised its main competitors were chicken and pork, rather than other beef-producing countries.
“The MSA scheme is going to take a huge leap to holding our market share in the domestic market, and hopefully increase our market share,” he said. “It will guarantee the quality of the product, the eatability of the product and the consistency of the product,” he told the paper.
Mr Toohey said one of the biggest shortcomings of beef was its inconsistency. “You are never confident you can serve it up to a guest and be happy with the meal,” he said. “The reasons why people are moving to chicken are consistency of product, the ease of preparation and value for money.”
But the beef industry has a tough task ahead. The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) expects chicken consumption to jump almost two kilograms a head in 1998-99 to 32.4kg and rise steadily to 35.4kg by 2001-2002.
At the same time, ABARE expects beef consumption to drop steadily to 35.2kg by 2001-2002 and to keep falling to 34.8kg for the following two years.