BRANDING is the key to securing a future for Australia's red meat industries, according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
Branding meat exports was one of several new marketing strategies announced by MLA international marketing general manager Hugh Amoyal at a producer forum in Melbourne.
Mr Amoyal said knowing what consumers wanted and being able to adjust to their changing needs was the key to long-term sustainability.
He said the Australian meat industry had an opportunity to consolidate its position using its world-leading understanding of consumers to help increase sales and profits of its entire red meat category.
Mr Amoyal said using a category management approach would seek to develop a deeper relationship between suppliers and retailers, with the aim of increasing sales and improving profitability.
"We have already begun a pilot program in Korea with a global retail chain," Mr Amoyal said.
"Building this capability will take time and commitment. It is about process innovation and developing commercial key performance indicators and understanding the consumer all the way back down the supply chain.
"Rewards can be significant for retailers, suppliers, the Australian red meat industry and indeed the whole of the red meat category players."
Mr Amoyal said Australia's competitors were circling the country's customers and buyers were demanding more in terms of service, delivery, presentation, quality and value for money.
"MLA marketing strategies are helping Australia stay on the right course by fostering a better understanding of consumer needs; clearly differentiating Australian red meat and aggressively promoting our product," Mr Amoyal said.
Mr Amoyal said a new initiative in Japan had begun involving segmenting Japanese consumers, using the sensory testing methodology and lessons learnt through the science of Meat Standards Australia (MSA).
He said this would allow targeted product offerings and brands to Japanese consumers, while this knowledge would provide exporters with the tools to improve supply chains.
Australian Beef Association (ABA) director John Carter said MLA was not working fast enough on developing an export grading system.
Mr Carter did not agree MLA's latest initiatives to brand Australian meat using sensory testing methodology and MSA information would create the grading system needed to secure Australian export markets.
He said the US had introduced its grading system following World War II and this was being used by other countries such as Canada and Korea for grading their meat.
Mr Carter said the US grading system provided a perfectly good grading system but was not used in Australia because processors did not want to use it.
He said MLA was in "cuckoo land" if it believed using its proposed hot grading system would help promote Australian meat overseas.
He said rail grading could not be used to judge marbling and therefore would not maintain eating quality for consumers, which was the whole motive behind using a grading system.
"I have been waiting for a grading system for the last 25 years," Mr Carter said.
"I would like to see a Minister for Primary Industries with some courage to deliver a grading system in Australia."
Mr Carter said the MSA domestic grading system was not reaching consumers because processors and major retailers were not supporting the system.
He said grading would provide nothing but positives for producers with better beef being recognised and returning a premium to producers.