Marketing Starts on the Farm – 2

Newsletter No. 54

Establishing a market for their products is critical to the success of any business. With livestock, it used to be that you would raise your animal and when it was finished, take it to market. Today that is all changing very rapidly, not just in the EU but also in many importing countries as a result of globalisation, which has resulted in food crossing international borders.

Consumer demand today for greater food security and improved animal welfare makes it increasingly difficult for buyers to source livestock through the market system and retain the ablity to offer these securities.  .

The legislation now in place in the EU and many other countries makes it increasingly challenging to provide the full traceability for animals purchased at livestock markets. Buyers today also seek greater consistency and uniformity as well as security of supply.

As at 2013, the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe has raised further awareness and concerns on food security and traceability.

To achieve buyer requirements the larger meat buyers purchase on contract and lay down stringent rearing standards, over and above those laid down by legislation. These rearing standards are not possible to monitor when they have no direct access to the animals while on farm because the first time they are seen is at the market.

These are some of the areas controlled on farm and if not in place, many buyers will not buy the meat.

- Food Safety/Consumer Health
- Animal Welfare
- Residue Monitoring
- Quality
- Disease Control
- Reliability of Supply

This clearly demonstrates why marketing starts on the farm. If all these things are not in place on the farm, then the market is limited if available at all.

It is not easy to place these factors in any particular order of importance because a failure in any one area can halt market availability even if the farm is perfect in all other areas.

The following illustrate these issues and discuss the role of the WOA in establishing protocols, where appropriate, with greatest focus on the areas that are important at farm level.

Food Safety/Consumer Health
In meat production examples of areas that are important to food safety and consumer health are:

  • Unwanted residues in the blood and meat:
    • Antibiotics
    • Growth Hormones
    • Heavy Metals
    • Pesticides
  • Drugs
  • Bacteria infection
  • Bruising
  • Disease of any nature

A visit to the government web sites indicates how important these issues are today.  The increase in globalisation of agriculture and intensification of livestock production has combined to increase the risks to consumers of contaminated product.

Traceability
The ISO (International Organization for Standardization), which develops voluntary international standards for products and services, defines traceability as the “ability to trace the history, application, or location of that which is under consideration.”  Under EU law, “traceability” means the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption, through all stages of production, processing and distribution.

Full traceability is becoming increasingly important in the major markets. With livestock, as can be seen, this is not simply from the slaughter plant to the point of sale, but also where born, where grown, what they have eaten throughout their lives, all medical history including treatments.  To achieve this records are required on such things as:

  • Unique Animal identification
  • Location of birth
  • Location during rearing
  • Feed fed throughout their life
    • To trace any potential contamination
    • Use of prohibited ingredients at any time
    • Supplying feed companies required to maintain full records of ingredient sources in each batch of feed
  • Health records
    • Diseases
    • Treatments
    • Vaccinations
  • Transport

Traceability is a way of responding to potential risks that can arise in food and feed, to ensure that all food products are safe to eat.  It is vital that when national authorities or food businesses identify a risk they can trace it back to its source in order to swiftly isolate the problem and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.  In addition, traceability allows targeted withdrawals and the provision of accurate information to the public, thereby minimising disruption to trade.

Past food crises such as dioxin contamination and BSE, have illustrated the particular importance of being able to swiftly identify and isolate unsafe foodstuffs in order to prevent them from reaching the consumer.  As at March 2013 the most recent incident is the Horsemeat found in processed foods labelled as beef and pork DNA found in halaal products.

Animal Welfare
The markets of Europe, Britain and North America are becoming increasingly concerned over animal welfare.  The British Domesticated Ostrich Association is working with DEFRA and the RSPCA to lay down basic standards here in Britain .

The WOA has created a set of welfare guidelins that can be used as a foundation for:

  • governments seeking guidance to develop their own codes
  • buyers wanting to set codes
  • certification organisations needing to learn more on ostrich

The gudielines are available at http://www.world-ostrich.org/woawelfare.htm.  We will amend and update as experience and data becomes more available.

Residues
The following quote from the EU web site:  http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/chemicalsafety/residues/index_en.htm illustrates the importance now placed on having the right procedures in place to ensure meat is free of residues.

Quote: “Residues of Veterinary Medicinal Products - Introduction        

During their lifetime, animals may have to be treated with medicines for prevention or cure of diseases. In food producing animals such as cattle, pigs, poultry and fish this may lead to residues of the substances used for the treatment in the food products derived from these animals (e.g. meat, milk, eggs). The residues should however not be harmful to the consumer.

To guarantee a high level of consumer protection, Community legislation requires that the toxicity of potential residues is evaluated before the use of a medicinal substance in food producing animals is authorised. If considered necessary, maximum residue limits (MRLs) are established and in some cases, the use of the relevant substance is prohibited. The evaluation procedure is laid out in Council Regulation (EC) 2377/90 of 26 June 1990.

Directorate-General Enterprise is responsible for the rules governing medicinal products and the evaluation of residues of pharmacologically active substances used in veterinary medicinal products and for establishment of MRLs in the EU.  End Quote

Countries will have their own rules and regulations to monitor residues within the meat to protect their consumers.  In the EU, each country residue-monitoring plan is expected to follow the EU regulations:  http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/chemicalsafety/residues/control_en.htm.  This page provides information for those countries outside the EU wishing to supply the EU.  http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/chemicalsafety/residues/third_countries_en.htm.

Residues in the meat result from inputs at the farm, and emphasise the importance of the correct controls on the farm.  These inputs include feed, water and all medication, internal and external.

Quality
The aspects of meat quality that are controlled at farm level are discussed in greater detailed in the WOA Factors Influencing Ostrich Meat Quality

  • Age of the animal
  • Nutrition
  • Management Systems

In meat quality, the Nutrition is the most important as the rations fed control the colour, taste, texture and odour of the meat.  They control the animal’s ability to handle stress, and the time required to bring an animal to slaughter.  The younger the animal is slaughter ready, the more tender the meat.

Management systems are also extremely important in controlling meat quality, because any failure in management can result in insufficient feed intake, insufficient water intake, disease control and stress levels.  Insufficient water intake, presence of disease or parasites and stress all result in reduced feed intake and impact on the quality of the meat.

The condition of the animal’s liver and colour of the fat are key indicators of the animals overall health and quality of the meat.  The feed the animal receives directly controls liver condition and fat colour.

Disease Control
The importance of good biosecurity to minimise the risks of disease cannot be over emphasised.  Historically Newcastle Disease (NCD) and Avian Influenza (AI) are probably the diseases that have caused the most disruption to supplies.

An outbreak of NCD or AI in ostrich and/or poultry can shut down movement locally and exports overnight.  AI ended the Israeli Ostrich industry, even though it was not present in their ostrich flock as they were totally dependent on the export market for meat sales as the local population are unable to eat ostrich meat.  Over the years NCD and AI has severely affected the South African industry because they had built their meat sales on the export market.   Australia has also experienced total closure to exports for an extended period because of NCD in poultry.

Chick Mortality has also caused many difficulties in continuity of supply:

Quote "Chick mortality is a serious destroyer with devastating and varied financial implications.   For the last two decades, in all surveys and opinion polls, the vagaries of chick mortality have been listed as enemy number one."  End Quote [1]

There are a number of reasons for chick mortality and these should be clearly understood to ensure correct management to minimise these losses.

Disease disrupts the supply to the market.

Reliability of Supply
Most restaurants set their menus for several months at a time (many for as long as 6 months) and once let down markets are harder to recover.  They cannot afford to to be let down in delivery.

Supermarkets will not tolerate empty shelf space.  Unreliable supplies will result in lost contracts.  Disease is one of the major causes of lack of supply, either as a result of export bans or as a result of high chick mortality.

One other major cause for lack of supply witnessed in Ostrich over the years is the unreliability of egg numbers laid and conversion of those eggs to day old chicks and then survival to slaughter.  Farm management systems must be in place to optimise the numbers of eggs laid and the conversion of those eggs to slaughter birds to ensure continuity and reliability of the supply to the market.

Conclusion:
The above illustrates just why marketing starts at the farm.

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[1] The South African National Agricultural Marketing Council “Report on the Investigation of the effects of Deregulation of the South African Ostrich Industry” page 33.

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