Going grassfed 101

21 October 2016

Do your homework, know your market specifications and plan ahead were the messages from Agriculture Victoria’s Laura Garland who spoke about grassfed marketing programs at this month's MLA-funded More Beef from Pastures event at Alpine Angus, near Myrtleford.

“Branded grassfed beef is a growth sector and more processors and retailers are launching programs that make guarantees to consumers about lifetime nutrition, meat eating quality, animal welfare standards, antibiotic and chemical use, and lifetime traceability,” she said.

“There is some variation between programs and premiums available, however, the challenge is to work within your pasture-based system to optimise quality and turn-off times to capture the highest premiums.

“Understanding the market specifications, being able accurately assess when animals have met those production targets and being able to supply reliably with a medium- to long-term view are some of the key elements to success.”

Laura advised that premiums on offer should not be the only basis on which to select a pasturefed program.

“For many producers it is about being aligned with a market that fits their production system and their values,” she said.

Laura also pointed out that one of the benefits of committing to a reliable, long-term market is the ability to plan ahead.

“With good relationships and strong communication year-round with buyers, producers are able to better estimate their profit margins, feed budgets and cash flow forecasts," she said.

“Knowing where you’re going at the start makes it much easier to get there.”

Follow the feedback

Laura also spoke about the importance of producers embracing feedback and using it, wherever possible, to improve their business.

“Livestock marketing is changing swiftly and becoming far more sophisticated than it has traditionally been,” she said.
With processors using MLA-developed feedback systems, such as myMSA and Livestock Data Link (LDL), producers can source information to help them improve compliance.
LDL provides individual animal feedback and insights into why certain animals fail to meet specifications and the cost of non-compliance, or the opportunity lost, by not meeting those specifications.

Get with the program

Laura suggested producers examine some of the pasturefed programs available to them including:

PCAS – The Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System, administered by the Cattle Council of Australia, seeks to assure consumers that the products come from grassfed production systems, they satisfy pre-slaughter handling requirements that affect eating quality and they are lifetime traceable. There are additional, optional modules to support freedom from antibiotics and hormone growth promotants. Independent audits are required annually, paid for by the producer.

JBS Farm Assurance – This program is market driven and is underpinned by a fully independent, third party-accredited audit process. JBS has developed its own pasturefed assurance program in response to market requirements. The program uses Meat Standards Australia (MSA) to ensure meat eating quality and does not allow use of antibiotics or genetically modified feed products. The JBS Farm Assurance program underpins brands such as Great Southern and King Island Beef. Independent verification audits, provided by JBS, are undertaken to confirm the integrity of the program.

Coles Graze – Based on PCAS principles, this pasturefed program is underpinned by MSA, however, Coles stipulates its own animal welfare and environmental requirements. Regular audits are carried out on suppliers along with completion of annual self-assessments.

Teys PCAS Pasture-fed program – Teys utilises PCAS to underpin their pasture-certified animals that meet specifications to supply brands such as Teys Certified Premium Black Angus and Woolworths grassfed product.

More information:

Laura Garland T: 03 5761 1598 E: laura.garland@ecodev.vic.gov.au

More Beef from Pastures ‘Meeting Market Specifications’ module

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