BEEF’s revolutionary shift to an objective carcase measurement system is in jeopardy, with peak processor groups looking to scuttle the industry-wide introduction of ground breaking DEXA technology.
Both the Australian Meat Industry Council and the processing sector’s service company the Australian Meat Processing Corporation have rejected an industry-wide roll-out of the advanced objective carcase composition measuring tool DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry).
In a letter dated December 20 from AMIC chairman Lachie Hart that was widely circulated among peak industry bodies, the processor body says the P150 project (DEXA) was not supportable by the processing sector in its current form.
Mr Hart wrote there were many conceptual, methodological and policy-related deficiencies in the proposal. None the least was that there was no evidence of systemic deficiencies in the grading and reporting system, he said.
“The fact that producers have complaints about feedback does not mean those complaints about feedback are justified and supported by substantive evidence,” Mr Hart wrote.
“Information provided by processors are in fact only a small number of areas which are generally causing concern, mostly where there is subjective measurement of carcase attributes such as dentition, fat score and colour.
“The adoption of OCM (objective carcase management) technology offers a means of addressing these specific issues, but this is subject to the technical and commercial viability of the technology in practical processing conditions.
“The MLA proposal appears to view OCM as a means of transforming the entire supply chain, which is entirely disproportionate to the nature and dimension of the issues to be addressed.”
Instead, companies including JBS and Teys Australia will be forced to go it alone. JBS has already proven the technology in sheep carcase processing and is carrying out extensive trials with larger beef carcases. Teys has also played a significant role in the trial work and announced this week it would introduce the ground breaking technology in its Rockhampton plant. Coles-supplier Australian Country Choice has also indicated its intention to introduce the technology.
Despite AMIC claiming to be representative of the processing sector, neither Teys or JBS are members of the organisation. However, both companies pay levies to AMPC.
The rejection of DEXA by AMIC and AMPC is a major blow to producers who saw the introduction of OCM as delivering an accurate method for payment for the actual amount of meat produced. It is also seen as a way of delivering a universal language at the processor level that would drive the productivity of the cattle and sheep Australian herds.
Producers are currently being asked to consider bankrolling the $150 million cost of rolling out of DEXA in all Australian processing plants from industry funds. In return for their investment producers would also ‘own’ the data gathered the objective management system, enabling enhanced genetic selection decisions for herds and other profit-influencing management decisions including feeding regimes.
Other models for funding DEXA include a shared funding arrangement with processors using AMPC levy reserves and/or funding from the federal government.
Under the model proposed by MLA, the red meat industry would be finally rid of long criticised subjective carcase measurements.
Senator Barry O’Sullivan said the failure to introduce an objective carcase measurement system would be a massive opportunity lost.
Sen O’Sullivan said he had met with both Mr Hart and AMPC chairman Peter Noble who had both voiced their opposition to DEXA.
“Mr Hart said processors don’t want it and Mr Noble said the technology was out of date,” Mr O’Sullivan said. “These people need to lock themselves in a room and come up with a whole of industry response. If they can’t, they will be looking at the government imposing a independent carcase assessment scheme.”
Cattle Council of Australia is meeting this week and Sheepmeat Council next week, to consider funding issues surrounding DEXA.