Native breeds offer a sustainable future for beef production

The value of native beef genetics is rapidly growing, with breeds such as Aberdeen-Angus showing that they can tick the boxes at all tiers within the beef supply chain.

Robert Gilchrist, CEO at the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society
Robert Gilchrist, CEO at the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society

Better suited to grass-based, lower input systems than continental breeds, native genetics offer the potential to boost producer margins and support environmental goals, while delivering a consistently high-quality end product.

As a result, the industry is seeing significant growth in their use.

As subsidies drop off and input costs continue to rise, beef farmers have had to start looking at ways to enhance their resilience, which has resulted in a significant increase in native breed BCMS registrations over the last 10 years.

Aberdeen-Angus calf registrations have increased significantly and they’re now top of the list with 471,528 registrations in 2021. Four per cent growth has been seen in the last year, accounting for 24.41 per cent of beef calves.

More farmers are recognising that the lower input systems, where cattle can be predominantly finished off forage and grass-based diets, is a much more sustainable and financially viable way of producing beef, as the agricultural sector faces so much uncertainty.

The nature of the reduced inputs required for an extensive beef system means they tend to have a lower cost of production and be more environmentally sustainable.

The benefits extend much further than just farmers within the supply chain.

From a consumer perspective, the intramuscular fat that native breeds offer provides the marbling which consumers desire, making it easier to cook. This gives a more consistent eating experience, which is fundamental in getting people to purchase beef on a regular basis.

Spiralling feed costs has recently highlighted major vulnerability within the meat supply chain, with pork and chicken heavily affected due to their reliance on concentrate feed.

Building a beef supply chain that focuses on producing meat from grass is more resilient and sustainable.

Beef is renowned for being a premium product and therefore typically a more expensive option than white meat. However, if we can develop a more sustainable beef supply chain at all levels, then we will be better placed to compete with other proteins in the future.

Robert Gilchrist is CEO at the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society

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