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Meat Standards Australia (MSA) celebrates 25 years with $259 million return to industry in 2022-23

09 November 2023

Australia’s quality grading program for beef, Meat Standards Australia (MSA), has set a record for estimated farmgate returns for the Australian beef industry.

The program was established by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) in 1998 and delivered $259 million in estimated additional farm gate returns to MSA beef producers in 2022–23, a significant increase from the estimated high of $204 million in the previous year.

This is according to the MSA Annual Outcomes Report for 2022-2023, which has just been released.

According to MSA Program Manager, David Packer, this improvement is a direct result of the year-on-year growth of the program and the value captured and shared along the supply chain.

“In this milestone year of 25 years of MSA, the program’s value and benefits are reflected throughout the red meat supply chain from producers through to consumers,” Dr Packer said.

“The MSA system is based on over 1.7 million consumer taste tests by over 250,000 consumers from 13 countries and considers the factors that affect eating quality from the paddock-to-plate.

“In the past year, more than 3.39 million cattle were presented for MSA grading through 39 Australian beef processors. This equates to 54% of all cattle slaughtered in Australia, which is an incredible effort, with 3.23 million cattle meeting the minimum MSA requirements.”

“Behind this excellent compliance rate are producers who continue to build on their MSA performance. In 2022–23, the average MSA Index that represents the eating quality of a carcase, for MSA compliant carcases was 57.52, an increase of 0.15 from the national average MSA Index of 57.37 in 2021–22, and an increase of 0.48 from 10 years ago.”

An additional 2,882 cattle and/or sheep producers became MSA registered in 2022–23, taking the total number of MSA producers to 49,688.

Important to the success of the MSA program are its adoption strategies. In the past year, the MSA team delivered a range of training workshops and information sessions across the country, enabling more than 1,200 beef and sheepmeat producers to make on-farm changes towards improved outcomes.

A key component of the MSA Strategic Plan 2020–25 is an increased focus on supporting business development activities with processors and brand owners, to expand awareness of MSA on the international stage.

“This will increase confidence of brand owners to differentiate their product based on a world leading eating quality program,” Dr Packer said.

Key supply chain stakeholders also participated in MSA education and training, with over 700 industry service providers, processor representatives, advisors and livestock agents, attending events.

MLA has been undertaking research with Australian independent butchers and wholesalers for over a decade to understand their perceptions of, and satisfaction with, MSA graded meat. Survey results for 2022–23 show 78% of butchers rated their satisfaction with MSA-graded meat as ‘very good to excellent’, up from 73% in 2021–22.

More than 2.31 million sheep followed MSA pathways through 14 MSA-licensed processing facilities across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, which was 200,000 more than 2021–22.

Of the total lambs processed in Australia, 71% were processed through MSA licensed processing plants that follow processes to improve eating quality.

MSA carried out benchmarking activities with 10 sheepmeat supply chains, which comprise 68% of national lamb slaughter, to understand the range in eating quality of the commercial flock through these supply chains. This was done by utilising newly available technology to measure intramuscular fat, in sheepmeat coupled with lean meat yield measurements, to provide eating quality scores for nine cuts by cooking method (grill or roast) outcomes.

According to Dr Packer, benchmarking highlights the value proposition of the MSA sheepmeat cuts-based model.

“This will ultimately allow processors and brand owners to apply eating quality segregation within their supply chains,” Dr Packer said.

“As it moves towards commercialisation, the exciting prospects of the MSA sheepmeat cuts-based model is another way the MSA program continues to add value for the Australian red meat industry.”

“This is also an important driver towards the industry’s goal of doubling the value of Australian red meat sales by 2030.”