BeefLedger has received a lot of feedback from friends and colleagues in Australia and China in the last week, since our story on ABC Landline first aired.

Supporting reputation value

Our commitment to supporting authentic Australian beef to maintain its standing and value in a highly contested marketplace is strengthened by this feedback.

Australia is recognised as a producer of excellence. That’s one of the reasons China is now Australia’s biggest beef market by volume.

Full of reputable actors, the Australian industry has nothing to hide. It has everything to gain from confronting food counterfeiting risk and the reality of market concerns.

It has a great track record to build from.

With growing demand and constrained supply response capacity, the risk of counterfeiting and other illicit conduct damaging the brand value of Australian beef  is high; and it’s high in the minds of many discerning consumers.

Substitution is a concern

Independent research by PwC estimates that every second kilogram of beef sold in China as Australian isn’t Australian.

Reputations are also affected by the use of non-beef substitutes in-market. While official estimates are hard to come by, private communications with leading industry and university researchers in China suggest that adulterated product can be up to 5 times greater in volume than legitimate imported product.

This is evident in the WeChat group communications reproduced below. In the comments, from one of China’s leading beef industry researchers, it is observed that meat from old sows, duck and horse are used to substitute for beef.

What this research does not say is that horse meat is being substituted for Australian beef. It also does not say that meat from other animals is being used to substitute or adulterate Australian beef. Least of all does it suggest that substitution takes place in Australia.

Unfortunately it would appear that in some cases of reportage, the issue of race horse slaughter in Australia has been conflated with the story around beef counterfeiting in China. That is not our view, and we strongly reject the implication that this is the case.

Tackling real risks

So, let’s be clear: we have a proud record of safety and traceability built up over many decades. This has served the sector well historically.

That said, there is real and material risk to reputational value when substitution and adulteration are widely understood in-market as genuine and extensive problems. Similarly, there remains active industry recognition of beef smuggling via various channels, including Hong Kong.

The Chinese media landscape has not resiled from exposing incidence of fraud, malfeasance and bad practice. The national government and industry at large are making great efforts to stamp out the problem players and protect credible actors and consumers alike.

Theres no point pretending it doesn’t exist as a risk.

Extending foundations

Maintaining systemic vigilance is critical going forward, so as to extend and build on the solid foundations of safety and quality established over generations. That’s what we are doing.

We are already working with a number of producers committed to proving to the market place the authenticity of their product – to show that it is different from the rubbish that is unfortunately presented as if it was Australian.

BeefLedger is pleased to be working with an industry that remains 100% passionately committed to authenticity, consumer value and integrity.