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Production practices for red meat in Australia.

Since its beginnings with the arrival of the First Fleet over 200 years ago, our red meat industry has delivered a significant contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of our nation, to the point today where it represents Australia's largest rural sector and, with a total economic contribution of $15.5 billion, is among Australia's major industries.

Australia's red meat industry has built a reputation around the globe as a leader in agricultural production and marketing practice, developing and adopting new technologies and systems to better meet customer and community needs. Australia accounts for around 3% of global red meat production, yet is second only to Brazil as the world's largest exporter of red meat. However, with price premiums for Australian beef and sheepmeats, Australia dominates global exports in value terms, accounting for 25% of global trade.

We have attained this position by recognising consumer and cultural tastes in individual markets and by producing red meat in the style to meet each market need. Australia is now a major supplier of red meat to over 100 countries. Australia's largest markets are shown in Table 1.


Australian consumers demonstrate in their food purchasing behaviour that they have taken the 'reduce fat intake' message to heart. This is apparent in red meat, where the number one selling item in retail meat cases is Extra Lean Mince ([less than or equal to]5% fat content). Retailers have responded across their red meat range with product specifications, typically including marbling marbling, in bookbinding, a process of coloring the sides, edges, or end papers of a book in a design that suggests the veins and mottles of marble. In tree marbling, as of tree calf bindings, the design suggests also the trunk and branches of a tree.  scores of 0-2 (on a 7-point scale). Trimming specifications on external fat are typically a maximum of 3 mm. While some up-market restaurants in Australia promote heavily marbled meat Marbled meat is meat, especially red meat, which contains various amounts of intramuscular fat, giving it an appearance similar to a marble pattern. Meat with a high marbling content has a taste and texture American consumers have come to like.  as an indulgence, the vast majority of red meat offered for everyday family consumption in Australia is lean.


Australian production practices vary to meet the different market needs. In northern Australia The term northern Australia is generally considered to include the States and territories of Australia of Queensland and the Northern Territory. The part of Western Australia (WA) north of latitude 26° south — a definition widely used in law and State government policy , tropical breeds such as Brahmans are reared on pasture mainly to service the global lean frozen market for blending into hamburgers. In southern and central Australia Central Australia: see Northern Territory, Australia. , European and British breeds (e.g. Angus, Hereford) are reared on pasture to supply lean chilled beef for the domestic market, but also for fattening fat·ten  
v. fat·tened, fat·ten·ing, fat·tens
1. To make plump or fat.

2. To fertilize (land).

 in feed lots to supply the north Asian marbled mar·bled  
1. Made of or covered with marble: a marbled façade.

2. Having a mix of fat and lean: a well-marbled beef roast.

Adj. 1.
 beef market. Marbled beef is produced by feeding cattle with grain for periods ranging from 100 days up to 300 days. This is Grain-Fed beef. Grain can also be used to finish grass-fed cattle, typically for periods of 40-70 days. This does not produce marbling, nor sufficiently alter the nutrition profile from purely grass-fed beef. This is Grain-Finished beef and, along with pasture-fed beef, is a style widely consumed in Australia.

Around one-third of Australia's annual cattle turnoff of 8-9 million head are now lot-fed (i.e. either grain-fed or grain-finished). This level has grown in the past two years as a direct result of the drought, where there has been insufficient pasture for finishing, and of the extraordinary demand for marbled beef from north Asia North Asia or Northern Asia is a subregion of Asia. The most common definition of the term is;
  • The Asian part of Russia, namely Asian Siberia; however, by some definitions, not all of Northern Asia is part of Siberia.
 due to the USA's exclusion from these markets arising from their bovine spongiform encephalopathy bovine spongiform encephalopathy: see prion.  (BSE See Bombay Stock Exchange.


See Boston Stock Exchange (BSE).
) incidents (Figure 1).

Even so, most of the cattle passing through Australian feedlots in 2006 were grain-finished rather than grain-fed (Figure 2). This is in contrast to feeding practices in other countries (e.g. USA), where most cattle are grown on corn from weaning weaning,
n the period of transition from breast feeding to eating solid foods.


the act of separating the young from the dam that it has been sucking, or receiving a milk diet provided by the dam or from artificial sources.
. Given that most of our animals have spent nearly all of their lives on pasture, Australian beef (particularly that on the domestic market) can continue to be described as 'predominantly grass-fed'.

In the sheep sector, lamb continues to be overwhelmingly grass-fed. While some grain feeding of lamb has emerged in recent years, this is mainly to supplement drought-affected pastures and to produce larger lamb carcases for the US market.


Our grazing grazing,
n See irregular feeding.


1. actions of herbivorous animals eating growing pasture or cereal crop.

2. area of pasture or cereal crop to be used as standing feed. See also pasture.
 industries cover 57% of Australia's land mass, and therefore have a crucial role to play in sustainable environmental management. Given Australia's predominantly pasture-fed production system for red meat in Australia, most of our meat is produced using three naturally available resources, that is, rain, grass and sunshine.

It has been suggested by some that these resources could be used for more efficient purposes than meat production. However, those suggestions make the assumption that these resources can be captured and diverted for alternative uses, such as producing plant foods. Most livestock production, not only in Australia but around the world, takes place on marginal land and soil types that are not suitable for cropping. Were this land and resources not used for grazing, they would be largely wasted for food production, putting even greater cropping pressure on more arable land In geography, arable land (from Latin arare, to plough) is an agricultural term, meaning land that can be used for growing crops.

Of the earth's 148,000,000 km² (57 million square miles) of land, approximately 31,000,000 km² (12 million square miles) are
 areas. Indeed, if Australia were to replace the dietary protein contribution from its meat production through additional grain, we would need an increased arable land mass of around 260 000 [km.sup.2], almost the equivalent of the combined land area of Victoria and Tasmania.



Even with grain-feeding production systems, an assumption is made by some that the grain for animals could be better used in the human food supply. In Australia, typically these grains are unfit for human consumption; otherwise, economics would encourage their direction into the processed food sector. Unfortunately, many of these assumptions emanate from the USA, where heavy government subsidies in the US corn industry distort their markets to such an extent that it is cheaper to feed animals good-quality corn than to graze them on pasture.

Greenhouse gases

It is calculated that our livestock industries contribute around 12% of Australia's greenhouse gas production, largely through methane output from the animals. The industry has been successful in reducing this by 6% since 1990 (Australian Greenhouse Office The Australian Greenhouse Office is an office of the Department of the Environment and Heritage within the Government of Australia. It manages Australia's response to climate change, and providing government-sanctioned information to the public. ), but clearly more work is needed.

A key plank has been to implement genetic technology, which has enabled producers to breed animals that are more efficient in their feed intake and conversion. The benefits of this improvement in feed conversion are threefold.

* Less feed is required so production costs fall. This is very important in dry conditions when feed costs rise.

* More meat is produced from less feed, increasing herd productivity.

* Less greenhouse gasses are produced as feed intake is reduced.

Other opportunities lie in capturing methane from animal wastes and using this for energy production. For example, a meat-processing plant in southern NSW NSW New South Wales

Noun 1. NSW - the agency that provides units to conduct unconventional and counter-guerilla warfare
Naval Special Warfare
 is already well advanced in developing this technology to become self-sufficient in its energy needs. Research is underway into improved feed types and livestock rumen rumen

pl. rumens, rumina; the largest of the compartments of the forestomach of ruminant animals that serves as a fermentating vat. It is lined by a keratinized epithelium bearing numerous absorptive papillae; it is partly subdivided by folds (pillars).
 function to further help reduce methane production.


Australia's beef, lamb and mutton mutton, flesh of mature sheep prepared as food (as opposed to the flesh of young sheep, which is known as lamb). Mutton is deep red with firm, white fat. In Middle Eastern countries it is a staple meat, but in the West, with the exception of Great Britain, Australia,  production is predominantly grass-fed, and antibiotics are used sparingly for therapeutic reasons. In the lot-feeding industry, in-feed antimicrobials are used when required, as important management tools designed to prevent conditions in cattle such as bloat and acidosis acidosis /ac·i·do·sis/ (as?i-do´sis)
1. the accumulation of acid and hydrogen ions or depletion of the alkaline reserve (bicarbonate content) in the blood and body tissues, decreasing the pH.


Concerns about antibiotic resistance antibiotic resistance,
n the ability of certain strains of microorganisms to develop resistance to antibiotics.

antibiotic resistance 
 in humans through animal use of antibiotics are receiving attention internationally. The debate about links between the use of these products in animals and human health problems continues. Argument at this stage is based on the supposition that transfer of resistance could occur via the food chain. The registration of antibiotics for use in animals in Australia is controlled by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine veterinary medicine, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of animals. An early interest in animal diseases is found in ancient Greek writings on medicine. Veterinary medicine began to achieve the stature of a science with the organization of the first school in the  Authority, which only allows antibiotic use in cattle for therapeutic purposes. In Australia, we do not see the levels of antibiotic resistance in bacteria from cattle or sheep that are seen in some other countries.

The principal in-feed antimicrobials used in the red meat industry (i.e. polyether pol·y·e·ther  
A polymer in which the repeating unit contains two carbon atoms linked by an oxygen atom.
 ionophores) differ from those used by other industries, in that they are not used in human treatment and resistance to these is unlikely to pose a problem. Animals treated with such veterinary treatments are required to be withheld from the market for defined periods and the Australian Government's National Residue Survey monitors for any residues that may be contained in the meat.


Growth promotants are anabolic anabolic

pertaining to or arising from anabolism.

anabolic steroid
steroids with a tissue-building effect. Testosterone is an example of a natural anabolic steroid with the, sometimes undesirable, effect of causing masculinization.
 (muscle building) agents used to increase growth rates Growth Rates

The compounded annualized rate of growth of a company's revenues, earnings, dividends, or other figures.

Remember, historically high growth rates don't always mean a high rate of growth looking into the future.
 and the conversion of food to muscle (feed-conversion efficiency). Hormones used in growth promotants occur naturally in a wide range of animals and some plants. Growth promotants have the same effect on animals as the natural hormones that are produced by our body's organs to regulate growth.

Hormonal growth promotants are used to maintain growth during poor pasture conditions, particularly in northern Australia, and within the feedlot feedlot

a management system in which naturally grazing animals are confined to a small area which produces no feed and are fed on stored feeds. See also dry lot.

backgrounding feedlot
 industry. Hormonal growth promotants, given to cattle as slow-release implants (under the skin of the ear), increase the feed-conversion efficiency, thus reducing energy, feed usage and environmental impacts.

Hormones are naturally present in infinitesimal in·fin·i·tes·i·mal  
1. Immeasurably or incalculably minute.

2. Mathematics Capable of having values approaching zero as a limit.

 amounts in all meat, whether from implanted animals or not. Hormone levels in the meat from animals implanted with growth promotants are much lower than those occurring naturally in beef produced from cows and bulls. For instance, cow meat contains natural female hormones at levels up to 60 times the amount in beef from implanted steers. Bull beef contains around 40 times the amount of naturally occurring male hormone than the amount of hormone found in implanted heifer beef.

The amount of oestrogen oes·tro·gen
Variant of estrogen.


see estrogen.
 in plant-source foods is greater than in meat. The human body produces hormones in quantities much greater than would ever be consumed by eating beef or other foods. Exhaustive scientific tests carried out over many years have not shown growth promotants pose any risk to human health or safety.

A rare, often fatal disease of the brain, characterized by gradual dementia and loss of muscle control that occurs most often in middle age and is caused by a slow virus.

Mentioned in: Autopsy

Until 1986 when BSE, popularly known as 'mad cow disease', was first described, the diseases known collectively as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) had excited only limited scientific interest. Their incidence was extremely low, and there was no evidence that these diseases had crossed from animals to man to cause vCJD. Given that cases of BSE are thought to have occurred as a result of feeding TSE-infected animal-rendered meal products to cattle, a number of precautionary measures have been undertaken by the Australian industry.

Animal Health Australia maintains the National TSE See Tokyo Stock Exchange.


1. See Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).

2. See Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE).
 Surveillance Program (NTSESP) consistent with the World Organisation Noun 1. world organisation - an international alliance involving many different countries
global organization, international organisation, international organization, world organization
 for Animal Health (OIE OIE Office International des Épizooties (French: International Office of Epizootics; Paris)
OIE Oficina Internacional de Epizootias (Spanish: World Organization for Animal Health) 
) International Animal Health Code. The Code assures all countries importing cattle and sheep products that Australia remains free of BSE and scrapie scrapie: see prion. . The NTSESP involves the detailed examination of several hundred cattle and sheep with signs of neurological disease Noun 1. neurological disease - a disorder of the nervous system
nervous disorder, neurological disorder

disorder, upset - a physical condition in which there is a disturbance of normal functioning; "the doctor prescribed some medicine for the disorder";
 that could be mistaken for a TSE. Animals eligible for examination are deemed to be at risk, and are selected from both field and abattoir abattoir (ăb'ətwär`) [Fr.], building for butchering. The abattoir houses facilities to slaughter animals; dress, cut and inspect meats; and refrigerate, cure, and manufacture byproducts.  cases showing signs of neurological disease.

A number of legislative changes affecting ruminant ruminant, any of a group of hooved mammals that chew their cud, i.e., that regurgitate and chew again food that has already been swallowed. Ruminants have an even number of toes on each foot and a stomach with either three or four chambers.  feeding have been enacted in all states, and awareness campaigns and audits are conducted to ensure industry compliance with these changes. Feeding of ruminant animal products to cattle is prohibited by law. This is further reinforced through the industry's food-safety declarations accompanying all livestock sales.

It is important to note that there has never been any natural occurrence of scrapie in sheep in Australia. In 1952, a mob of sheep imported into Australia were diagnosed with the disease. The mob was destroyed and no documented trace of the disease has ever been recorded in Australia. The European Union's Scientific Steering Committee steer·ing committee
A committee that sets agendas and schedules of business, as for a legislative body or other assemblage.

steering committee
 and the OIE have classified Australia as one of the few countries with the lowest possible risk rating for BSE.

While there have been some 160 reported deaths from vCJD in the UK and in Europe, to date there have been no cases in Australia. Those Australians considered at risk are those who lived in the UK in the late 1970s and early 1980s and who consumed British beef or beef products.


Australia is a global leader in on- and off-farm quality assurance and food-safety systems. Livestock Production Assurance is an on-farm food-safety certification program for cattle, sheep and goats that ensures that producers meet all food safety and animal disease requirements in raising their livestock. Over 180 000 properties are registered in this program, and they provide food-safety declarations (National Vendor Declarations) on all livestock sold. Additional quality assurance modules covering animal welfare and environmental standards are in development. Similar quality assurance systems operate in the Feedlot sector (National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme) and in the processing sector (various systems).

All cattle in Australia are individually tagged with a radio-frequency identification Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.  device at property of birth, and movements of individual animals through properties, sale-yards, feedlots and live export depots are recorded on a national database. This is the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS NLIS National Land Information Service
NLIS National Livestock Identification Scheme (Australian livestock tracking system)
NLIS Navy Logistics Information System
NLIS National Latino Interest Survey
). NLIS means the Australian industry can instantly locate and isolate all animals associated with a food-safety or animal-disease incident. Traceability in the sheepmeat industry is provided by the use of visual tags indicating the property of birth, along with an accompanying National Vendor Declaration.

Eating quality of beef and sheepmeat is assured through a grading system, Meat Standards Australia. The result of extensive consumer sensory testing, this acclaimed system identifies and certifies critical management practices right through the supply chain to ensure high consumer satisfaction. A mandatory requirement of this system includes on-farm animal welfare guidelines to ensure that animals' lives are devoid of stress.


Australia's red meat industry has achieved its position as leader in world trade through its global reputation for safe, nutritious, high-quality beef and lamb. This position is no accident. Generations of producers and processors have built an industry that is responsive to, and anticipates changes in, consumer and community expectations in every market in which we operate. For Australian consumers, this culture means that we can look forward to enjoying some of the world's best beef and lamb for decades to come.


Meat & Livestock Australia Ltd, Sydney, Australia
Table 1 Characteristics of Australia's largest markets for red meat

markets    Major styles         Market position

Australia  * Lean chilled beef  Australian-produced red meat dominates
           * Lean chilled lamb    our domestic market, with negligible
                                  imports (mainly from New Zealand).
Japan      * Heavily marbled    Australia is the largest supplier of
             chilled beef for     beef to Japanese consumers.
             retail and
           * Lean frozen beef
             for blending into
           * Lean chilled lamb
USA        * Lean frozen beef   Australia is the second largest supplier
             for blending into    of beef to US consumers, where our
             hamburgers           lean beef is highly valued for
           * Lean chilled beef    blending with US-produced fattier beef
             for restaurants      to make good hamburgers.
           * Lean chilled lamb  Australia is the second largest supplier
                                  of lamb to American consumers.
Korea      * Heavily marbled    Australia is the largest supplier of
             chilled beef for     beef to Korean consumers.
             retail and
           * Lean frozen beef
             for blending into
COPYRIGHT 2007 Dietitians Association of Australia
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Title Annotation:APPENDIX
Author:Thomason, David
Publication:Nutrition & Dietetics: The Journal of the Dietitians Association of Australia
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Previous Article:Reducing the meat and livestock industry's environmental footprint.

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