Taking stock of beef eating

View From the Paddock

Freelance journalist and consultant, Peter Lewis.

Freelance journalist and consultant, Peter Lewis.


It took a while for Meat Standards Australia to be accepted but the struggle was worth it, says our View From the Paddock columnist as he tucks into his latest steak.


You won’t get any argument from me about brekky being the most important meal of the day.

Frankly, the same goes for lunch and dinner, but for the purpose of this story let’s stick to the first meal of the day.

I recently enjoyed a hearty breakfast of steak, eggs and beef bacon courtesy of Meat and Livestock Australia, as part of the 20th anniversary of the Meat Standards Australia grading system. 

Believe me, that medium-rare rump tasted every bit as good as it looked.

The Meat and Livestock Association breakfast celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Meat Standards Australia scheme.

The Meat and Livestock Association breakfast celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Meat Standards Australia scheme.

And it got me thinking about how MSA helped shift the Australian beef  industry’s focus from  building bigger carcases  to developing consistently good cuts.

All of which must have been immensely satisfying for one of my fellow diners at that Customs House breakfast, David Crombie .

He laughed when he recalled the character-building initial reaction to MSA from some sections of the beef game.

The former MLA chairman spear-headed efforts to introduce MSA’s predecessor – Eating Quality Assurance and its pilot scheme here in Queensland just before Beef ’97 . 

That’s where I got my first taste of a Beef Australia event in Rockhampton .

Now, the kindest thing to say about the steaks served in the Beef Capital that week was that they accurately represented the “fair-average” quality consumers here and around the world had come to expect from Aussie beef.

Organisers inevitably faced some stern questions about how beef’s triennial celebration could deliver eating experiences every bit as memorable as those blue ribbon-winners in the show ring. 

Part of the answer of course was right in front of them – an objective grading system that was steadily differentiating the best from the rest. Consistently.

And part of it was shifting the industry’s mindset from what worked for producers to what consumers were prepared to pay for, both here and overseas. 

Anyone who queued up three years ago for a Cape Grim beef slider or managed to get a booking at the pop-up Celebrity Chef restaurant at the Rockhampton Showgrounds will appreciate just what a difference MSA has made since Beef ’97  – and every decent steak since.

 – Peter Lewis, freelance journalist and consultant


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