Despite national economic growth and development, the demand for food relief in Australia is rising - and the statistics are alarming.
As the population creeps towards 25 million, 3.6 million people are reporting every year that they have experienced food insecurity and last year alone saw an increase of 10 per cent in the number of people seeking food relief.
With 65,000 people turned away every month because of food shortages, of which 14,600 are children, the question of how to feed everyone still goes unanswered.
While donations of fruit and vegetables, bread and grains, and tinned goods go a long way to feeding these people, there’s one significant thing lacking – meat.
And that’s where BeefBank comes in.
Now in its 12th year, the not-for-profit organisation is upping its campaign, calling for more donations of cattle to meet that all-important demand for protein.
BeefBank director Andrew Rodgers, Brisbane, said he hoped the beef industry would get behind the charity.
“If I got every primary producer to give one cow every three years, with the amount of producers that are out there, I'd get five a week and the problem is alleviated amazingly,” he said.
“We're perfectly set up for the beef industry and we really want to push that we can be the charity of choice for the beef industry by saying that we can process cattle.
“We're in your backyard, we're in your market, we deal with cattle, we know the cattle, we transport cattle, we know the process back to front and we understand completely.
“I just need a phone call or an email from a farmer saying I've got one for you.”
BeefBank is a charity which sources cattle, turns them into mince, sausages and stewing steak through the butchering process, and then gives the meat to Foodbank to hand out to people.
Mr Rodgers said a small donation could make a huge difference.
“An average cow walking around in the paddock can feed about 2,500 people,” he said.
“We get about 10 meals per kilogram of meat because we turn it into mince, sausages and stewing steak.’
With 45pc of a beast able to be turned into a bulk portion of meat, Mr Rodgers said an average beast weighing 600kg could produce about 250kg of meat and therefore feed 2,500 people.
“If you get up to the 800kg to one tonne beasts, then you're talking 400kg of meat, which makes 4,000 meals,” he said.
Presently, BeefBank purchases cattle through the saleyards, but Mr Rodgers said for every dollar spent buying a beast, that’s money that can’t be spent on processing.
“It's a lot better, and it's a lot more efficient from a charity point of view, if we get the animal donated,” he said.
“If a farmer gives me a cow, I can give them a tax-deductible receipt for what that cow would've been worth on the market.
“So average price may be $2.80 times 600kg, they get a tax-deductible receipt for that value.
“It still works in that for a cow that is maybe not such high value, we still give the tax-deductible receipt for the average live-weight market price on the day, so it's a good way to get rid of animal that are a bit older.
“Because we turn them into mince and sausages, it doesn't have to be a prime cut - all we do is get volume meat.”
Foodbank then distributes the meat through its various locations and other charities Australia-wide, unless the person donating the beast requests that the meat be returned to their local area to help people in need.
“If a farmer is in a particular area, we direct the meat through distribution back to their area,” Mr Rodgers said.
“It doesn't make any difference where it comes from, we process the meat and send it back to that area at no cost to the farmer.
“A small donation from one farmer can feed thousands of people in their area.”
Foodbank Queensland chief executive officer Michael Rose said beef industry support was vital for them to continue to fight hunger in communities.
“Unfortunately food insecurity in our communities is an issue that is not going to go away, as families and individuals continue to struggle with the rising cost of everyday living,” Mr Rose said.
“Whilst Foodbank works closely with members of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, farmers, corporates and individuals, we survive largely as a surprise chain.
“Meat unfortunately is one item we don’t see regularly or in significant volumes in the warehouse.
“In addition to Foodbank’s Meat Industry Collaboration Program with various industry partners, a program such as the Rotary BeefBank initiative is vital for us and our 280 frontline partners.”
Harsh realities of winter
With the imminent onset of winter and temperatures rapidly dropping, Mr Rodgers said the need for meat is growing.
“Winter is particularly desperate for it because it's cold, and people need a hot meal,” he said.
“Whether they want it or not, they need it to survive.
“And it's not a privilege - it's a need and a necessity.”
Mr Rodgers said if he could get 10 times the donations he gets at present, he’d just manage to feed every person in need one sausage.
“That’s all we're talking about - one sausage or one rissole.
“We're not talking about a T-bone steak and vegetable meal; we're talking about survival food – that someone can live another week because they've had that one sausage.”