For major meat processors, the benefits of the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) program are far reaching, spanning from on-farm production to the end consumer.
JBS Australia’s Farm Assurance and Supply Chain Manager, Mark Inglis, views data and the information the MSA Index provides as pivotal to the JBS business.
In his role, Mr Inglis oversees the JBS Farm Assurance Program, which comprises approximately 2,500 beef producers and 1,100 lamb producers, who supply certified grassfed product into a range of brands underpinned by MSA.
Transparency and detail on eating quality and various other MSA criteria form a key part of the JBS branding strategy. The degree of detail in the data available to JBS has allowed the company to implement highly effective brand segregation to the benefit of both its producers and consumers.
“When I first started with JBS, we had an MSA beef brand called Southern Supreme, which contained a pretty wide range of eating qualities,” Mr Inglis said.
“From there we moved to the Great Southern brand which comprised exclusively certified grassfed beef that was antibiotic and GMO free, aimed predominantly at the US market.
“In collecting data for Great Southern, we started to see variations and segregation opportunities in the cattle coming through the Longford and Brooklyn complexes, and we recognised that we could separate out some animals with better eating quality.
“This led to the Great Southern Pinnacle brand, which comprises beef with a minimum AUS-MEAT marble score of 2 and an average MSA Index of 63.
“So this was a step forward, but we were still getting feedback from customers who might have a four star product, and then an everyday three star product in the same box.
“We eventually segregated even further, removing the variability from the eating quality entirely and providing a consistent quality 365 days of the year.
“This was really important. A customer who buys a product one week and then puts it on their menu, doesn’t want to come back the next week and not be able to buy the same thing.”
Mr Inglis said the consistency the MSA system provides has been well received, but it also delivers more benefit beyond a guaranteed eating quality for consumers.
“The branding side is absolutely key, but MSA is also about the connection back to the producers,” Mr Inglis said.
“We live and die by data and our MSA results, so the feedback that we can give to producers around a branding program, or what they’re supplying and how they’re performing, is only enhanced by the MSA.
“Using the MSA index, whether it’s for branding or giving guidance to producers is absolutely paramount and it’s one of the biggest things we do.
“We’ve certainly come a long way. When I think about where we were back in the day with boning groups, and the variability and inconsistency that they permitted, it’s clear that we’re streets ahead today thanks to MSA.”