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The truth on red meat consumption

16 May 2019

“Anti‑meat extremism” may have recently spiked in news headlines, but there’s no tidal wave of consumers turning to veganism, according to MLA’s consumer insights.

MLA research shows 61% of consumers feel that producers make a positive contribution towards society. In fact, there’s been a strong show of community support for producers affected by vegan extremists’ illegal and invasive actions.

MLA’s domestic marketing manager Graeme Yardy said consumers have a positive perception about food safety, standards and the right amount of regulation in relation to the red meat industry.

“This is testament to the work of the vast majority of producers who do the right thing,” he said.

Veganism plateau

For the past three years, the number of metropolitan people who identify as vegan or vegetarian has remained stable at 7% and, of those, 42% occasionally eat meat. At the same time, 17% of meat eaters have been vegetarian in the past – so there’s a high return rate to eating meat.

“The key message is there’s no huge groundswell of people turning away from eating meat,” Graeme explained.

“Veganism has a lot of celebrity influence. It’s not a fad, and people are free to choose what they eat, but it has to be viewed with the perspective of the evidence of what is happening at the broader level.

“At the heart of the issue is there’s so much media attention on veganism, alternative diets and activism. There’s an ability of small interest groups to have a huge voice compared to what Australians in general are doing with their lives.

“It’s a well‑worn path by anyone trying to effect change for their purpose to use shock and awe tactics – these are the tactics around vegan activism. With any extreme ideology, it’s unlikely you’ll change beliefs with research, facts and science because people are emotionally invested and not looking to be convinced otherwise.

“Instead, MLA looks to have rational discussions with groups who have legitimate concerns but want to be partners in the process, and we’re careful not to engage in debates that give legitimacy to issues representative of the views of a very small group.”

For that reason, the majority of MLA’s work in this space focuses on stimulating demand using the purchase drivers most important to most consumers – eating quality, nutrition and versatility, the need to fit in with the household budget, and convenience.

Transparency: the greatest opportunity

While there’s a growing trend in people wanting to know where food comes from – and claims of a lack of transparency underpinning much of the activist spiel – the reality is the red meat industry shares how it operates extensively.

“We know that less than 40% of people have visited a farm in Australia. Our role is to help people understand what it takes to produce amazing quality beef and lamb,” Graeme said.

MLA’s consumer and community programs

  • Good Meat website, where 20 frequently asked questions from consumers are answered

  • MLA Healthy Meals – red meat nutrition resources for health professionals
  • Paddock to Plate virtual reality experience for beef and lamb

  • Rare Medium foodservice program and e‑magazine

  • School education – engaging schools and teachers through red meat teaching resources aligned with the national curriculum

  • Partnerships with major community events such as royal shows and food festivals.

                                                      What our customers are saying

“‘Carbon neutral’ is what has finally sold me on big‑time menuing the Aussie product. Before it was difficult to justify not using local product, but knowing the commitment came from the farmers is awesome.”

Michael Poompan, Executive Chef, US

“I’ve visited all around Australia and experienced the best environment, high quality of feeding systems and the love of producers for cattle. So now I want to assist the Australian beef industry to go to the next level and be even more valued in Japan for its high quality.”

Hal Yamashita, Restaurateur and chef – NADABAN Restaurant, Tokyo, Japan

More information:

Graeme Yardy

Article updated on 20 November 2019.