GYMPIE-based beef processor Terry Nolan says the industry would do well to understand the likely impact that perceptions surrounding resource consumption will have on the standing of red meat in the minds of consumers.
Mr Nolan said in an industry increasingly driven by consumer expectations, it was likely the amount of resources used to produce beef would be questioned, particularly in the domestic market.
"Many consumers would consider beef a resource-hungry product, particularly with the amounts of grain, pasture, water and energy that are consumed in bringing an animal to market," Mr Nolan said.
"It's very likely the amount of resources that are used will be questioned as part of the carbon debate, particularly by the millennial generation.
"Don't get me wrong. I'm not against long-fed cattle.
"But resource consumption is an issue we will need to understand and manage."
Mr Nolan said part of the solution lay in producing faster growing, more efficient cattle, even if that meant placing less emphasis on the current trend of producing highly marbled meat.
In the Nolan family's Blonde d'Aquitaine cross-breeding operation that means producing lean 280kg carcases from animals at just 12 months of age (see story, p55).
"I'm not against marbling, but I'm not going to sacrifice growth rates to chase marbling," Mr Nolan said.
"We're happy producing beef with a zero to two marbling score because we know that beef produced from young cattle provides a similar 'mouth feel' to more marbled beef."
Mr Nolan said while the fat contained in marbled meat certainly provided flavour, it also provided lubrication.
"But it's also a similar eating experience with beef produced from young cattle, because the cells of that beef have a superior water holding ability, and that also produces the same juicy mouth feel."
Nolan Meats processes about 580 cattle a day. About 70 per cent of the beef is sold on the domestic market. The balance is exported to about 30 markets, topped by Korea, Japan and the Middle East.