Australia’s first BeefJam: Youth group addresses growing disconnect

20 July 2015

A group of inquisitive young consumers and red meat producers recently embarked on a crash course of the Australian beef supply chain for Australia’s first BeefJam.
The project collaboration between Target 100, a community initiative of Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), and the Youth Food Movement (YFM), a food education organisation, was designed to help bridge the gap between agriculture and the wider community.
Eight young urban consumers and seven young members of the red meat industry headed to Queensland recently to get a glimpse into the Australian paddock to plate journey. After visiting a farm, a feedlot, a meat processor and various butchers, the participants took part in an intense 48 hour ‘jam’, working together to challenge the way Australians produce and consume beef.
Research indicates that 96 per cent of Australians living in metropolitan areas have little understanding and familiarity of the Australian beef and lamb industry [i], yet the average Australian eats about 30kg of beef per year [ii].
“My assumptions were completely blown out of the water,” 29-year-¬old Melbourne fitter and turner, Joshua Polley said.


After visiting the processor he commented on the attitudes of the people working in the industry, saying; “They’re not completely desensitised to what they’re doing. They do have respect for the animals but they also understand the necessity for getting meat out there to the public.”
“Having these guys [consumers] in the room with us was incredibly invaluable,” BeefJam attendee Bronwyn Roberts, a Senior Project Officer at the Fitzroy Basin Association in Queensland, said.
“We have no idea what it’s like living in a city and being overwhelmed with choices like they are, just as much as they have no idea what it’s like to live on a real farm. How are we ever going to get those two perspectives, if we’re not in the same room together? So things like this, I think they need to happen more often.”

“It’s just been incredible to be able to talk to people face-to-face, and really see that people care,” Tim Eyes, Farm Manager from Wyong Creek on the NSW Central Coast said. “We know that there is this minority of people who are worried and we can help them on that journey, so it’s very inspiring.”
“Opening your industry up to people who have never seen it before can be daunting, but it’s extremely valuable, and it ensures that consumers can make informed decisions about the food they purchase,” MLA’s Community Engagement Manager Jax Baptista, said.
“The BeefJam has really cemented the fact that transparency and being open and honest about what we do as an industry is so important to build trust in the community.”
“So many of us live in cities where we are distanced from our food and the people who produce it,” YFM’s Communications Manager, Helena Rosebery said.
“One of the key goals of BeefJam was to facilitate understanding between the participants, no matter if they were a producer, consumer, meat eater or non-meat eater. When we got them in one room together, we were amazed by the level of connection, discussion and the sense of shared values,” said Ms Rosebery.
Mrs Baptista added; “Collaborating with YFM on BeefJam has been invaluable for MLA and the insights will be used to ensure our community engagement program, Target 100, remains relevant.”

[i] Independent research conducted by Pollinate with a representative sample of 1,001 Australians conducted in June 2014
[ii] An estimate based on research carried out by Meat & Livestock Australia in 2013-14

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