Monday, May 16, 2016
Another year has gone by with sheep meat returns being garbage. All the attention is on dairying, but it’s the same old for all us sheep farmers, one decent year of returns in who knows, last 15 years.
Why: exchange rate too high, oil prices low, slowing growth in China, slow growth in Europe, oversupply of lamb in Britain, blah blah. I presume all very valid excuses for poor returns, but what is being done different to make us less vulnerable to all this? Despite the repetitive rhetoric, I would suggest it could be in reality 5/8’s of FA.
As an outsider looking in and hearing quotes like “can’t move hindquarters (not sure exact word used) in Europe, China’s demand for forequarters and offal reduced dramatically” suggest to me that we should be years beyond marketing and selling products in this form.
Chicken, decades ago, was essentially only sold as a whole chicken. Today, it’s predominantly sold in a variety of “one meal portions”; surely today whole chicken sales comprise a very small percentage of supermarket sales. I personally only ever buy chicken breasts, chicken mince, chicken nibbles etc in a portion size suitable for one meal. We are told continuously this is what the modern consumer wants, so why are we still selling whole lamb as hindquarters (leg of lamb), forequarters (shoulders) etc.
Surely the focus needs to be on it breaking it down into one portion meals. Hopefully the following is already being done by Meat Companies:
1. Research and develop how to portion out a lamb carcass into one family meal portion sizes (ultimately a different optimum carcass weight may be required to achieve the best cuts); and
2. Research various (good) ways to cook such portions (quickly), with instructions on packaging (perhaps get Maggi on board!); and
3. Taste needs to be the number one priority, above yield for Meat companies. I always ensure overseas guests taste home killed mutton and every time they are stunned as to how nice it is. A great taste will get new repeat customers, but similarly one bad experience you won’t get them back again! Meat companies need to reward those farmers who supply lambs that are in good order with a bit of condition on them over and above those that supply lambs that weigh okay but are hard (the first lot of lambs will taste a lot better than the second). The Meat Companies are certainly not doing this at the moment. You need some fat on a lamb/ mutton when killed, if it is to taste good on the table;; and
4. Market and package it in a way that utilises what New Zealand is known for around the world; clean, green, mountains, pristine water, lakes, blue skies, outdoors etc. Accordingly “New Zealand” must always feature strongly in the brand name. Alliance’s “Pure South” brand does little for me, but at the very least surely it should be “Pure South New Zealand”. Similarly package the product in a way highlighting the features that people love about New Zealand namely mountains and lakes, use sky blue and greens on the packaging. I don’t understand Silver Fern Farms packaging of its meat, in my view it’s hideous it represents nothing.
I am constricted by the size of this column, as I certainly have more to say. However I ask Meat companies to be transparent and publicly respond by letting us know what, if anything, you are doing along the lines above and if not why not.