WHILE the global landscape is constantly changing and there will always be challenges in the world market, the outlook for beef internationally is positive.
That was a key message from Meat and Livestock Australia's David Beatty who was speaking at the beef field day 'Beef 2029: Friend or Foe' at Borden last week.
Mr Beatty said global demand for beef was on the rise with this demand led by Asia, and particularly China.
"China has overtaken the United States as the largest beef market in the world," Mr Beatty said.
"As far as growth potential goes our developed markets, such as the US and Japan, have stayed pretty flat but in the past four to five years China has grown substantially in terms of growth of beef imports.
"It has gone from a 20,000 tonne a year market in 2014 to 100,000t now."
Mr Beatty said Japan, the US and Korea were still Australia's top markets for beef, with China sitting fourth.
He said given Australia exports 70 per cent of its beef product, its returns are strongly linked to the success of penetrating export markets.
"Beef consumption is growing in developing countries such as Africa, Latin America and Asia and we are looking at good potential growth in these regions in the next decade," Mr Beatty said.
"Since the 1960s the volume of beef traded and shifted around the world has continued to grow.
"Australia has done well in this time, but it also means we are exposed to the world economy and that does put us at some risk.
"We are impacted by what happens on the global stage.
"At the moment we have the Trump trade wars and Brexit just to name a couple of things and these can potentially impact on Australia's beef exports.
"There are also negative pressures on beef consumption worldwide such as price, disease concerns, veganism, fake meat and the global economy which are putting pressure downwards on beef forecasts.
"But there are also lots of positives.
"We have the rising middle class in China and South East Asia and they want to eat more beef and the health benefits of beef are being promoted and these are putting upward pressure on beef forecasts and this forecasting is suggesting an increase in beef consumption over the next 10 years."
Mr Beatty said Australia was operating in a competitive landscape with growing exports coming out of the US and South America.
"These are mainly focused on Asia and that is where we will see the most direct competition," he said.
"Other beef suppliers are expanding production - and the US and Brazil are the leaders here - but Australia's production is quite flat at the moment and we are hugely exposed by environmental conditions as we have seen with the Eastern States drought and floods."
Mr Beatty said Australia was also a high cost beef supplier, with slaughter costs twice the price of Brazil.
"We are operating in an environment where it is costing more to produce cattle and process cattle than our competitors, therefore we have to be strategic and think about our markets and where we are going to get the best value, the best return and premiums," he said.
"Meat and Livestock Australia is focusing the marketing dollars on trying to find those niche markets and promote high end premium product.
"We are not going to win the battle against mass producers like Brazil and India where they can churn out lower inferior quality beef and a lot more of it, so we need to target that top end market."
In terms of innovation within the beef industry, Mr Beatty said emerging technology that will give producers the ability to do things more efficiently and effectively is going to be important in the future.
"We have to listen to the consumer, MLA has invested a lot of money trying to understand where the consumer is going and what they think about when purchasing red meat," he said.
"We as an industry have to be prepared to move with the consumer and think of technologies that will allow us to provide people with traceability, a carbon footprint, trust, sustainability and so on.
"If these are the things that are front of mind for consumers we have to provide that for them.
"Technologies are there and available now that enable the tracking of animals, so you know where they are all the time.
"These technologies are advancing quickly as we can see by the progressions made in such things as cattle wearing collars for virtual fencing."