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Monday, November 9, 2009

Casino, New South Wales

Beef Week Champion

Casino is beef country. It's among Australia's largest beef centres and their annual Beef Week Festival, held in May, is one of the leading events on the livestock calendar with exhibitors coming from all over eastern Australia.

The champion led steer of the 2009 Casino Beef Week was a Limousin exhibited by St Johns College Dubbo. Limousins are a breed of beef cattle originally bred in the Limousin and Marche regions of France. Cave drawings 20,000 years old in the Lascaux cave near Montignac have a striking resemblance to today's breed. The team from St Johns College Dubbo won with an 11 month old Kirk family bred Limousin. It was the second year in a row that the students have won the big prize and the fifth time in the nine years they have been coming to Casino to compete.

The Australia Beef Association suggested that Australian consumers were paying between 3 and 4 million dollars too much per year for beef and took a swipe at the two big players Woolworths and Coles. There were also innuendos about the sale of substituted old cow meat.

Woolworths strongly rejected these claims during the ACCC Grocery Price Enquiry Hearing held in April 2008 and made the following statement.

Woolworths only purchase beef from grain fed British bred steers to exacting quality specifications. We do not buy old cattle or cow meat.

There are many steps involved in putting beef on supermarket shelves and costs are incurred at every point in the process. On average, if the customer pay $10 for beef at the checkout, the supply chain costs are:

$4.80 cost of live animal from feedlot or farm

$0.10 transportation to abattoir

$0.90 animal is slaughtered and boned

$0.10 transportation to processing plant

$0.10 ageing, storage and pre-preparation of carcass

$0.10 transportation to stores

$1.40 in-store butchers prepare and pack cuts

$0.70 refrigeration and display

$8.20 costs incurred prior to sale

$1.70 gross margin to Woolworths before payment of store wages, rent, lighting, tax, advertising etc.

I don't have much respect of the ACCC, remember Grocery Watch? They spent $5,135,000 on consultancy fees and then scrapped it.

But the biggest threat to the beef industry has got to be climate change. When Agriculture Minister Tony Burke was presented with figures showing just how much it will cost beef farmers to comply to the ETS, he said they would adapt.

Professor Barry Brook, climate change adviser to the government says that livestock methane emissions are a greater threat to global warming than all the coal powered coal stations in Australia put together and believes Australia can phase out cattle production completely in just a few years. Is he insane? What will happen to our beef and dairy industries?

Al Gore suggests we should all eat less meat, that it's "the responsible thing to do" to fight climate change. That reminds me of the time he called on all Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption in their homes and his 20 room, 8 bathroom mansion in Nashville consumed more electricity in one month than the average American home used in one whole year. I suspect Al is still enjoying a nice juicy steak, if he's fair dinkum, he'll become a vegie.

No one knows what climate change and the Emissions Trading Scheme will mean to agriculture and our hard working farmers in the years ahead but hopefully commonsense will prevail.