Two-way benefits for AgResearch and the meat industry

The annual AgResearch Meat Industry Workshop held on March 18, 2015 was the biggest in the event’s 11 year history. The invitation-only workshop is one of the ways that AgResearch demonstrates its ongoing support of the industry, creating opportunities for industry representatives to discuss and prioritise issues and learn from each other.

The workshops began in 2005 following feedback from the New Zealand meat processing industry that they wanted a technical forum to learn more about and share information around recent research and development in the industry.

Meat Industry Research Institute of New Zealand (MIRINZ) Conferences had previously provided this technical interface for the industry, but the conferences ceased back in the late 1990’s. Beef+Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association supported the workshop concept and recognised the benefit in having them.

“This annual event is well attended by the industry and offers AgResearch an opportunity to engage with meat industry collaborators and other stakeholders and to tell our story as researchers,” says AgResearch Science Impact Leader – Meat Products & Supply Dr Cameron Craigie.

“We invite technical level managers from New Zealand meat companies, plus other stakeholders. From AgResearch’s perspective it is about keeping in touch, discussing new ideas and getting feedback. Our attendees come not only to catch up with what AgResearch and other speakers are doing in the research space, but also to network with their industry peers.

“There is a real two way exchange of information which is extremely valuable for everyone attending and, as there is no other technical workshop held in New Zealand that has a focus on the technical aspects of meat processing, we feel like we are filling a real gap in the knowledge base of our industry.

Dr Craigie says that this year’s event was one of the best they have had.

“We not only got to showcase some of AgResearch’s science, but also had discussions that gave us feedback on where we and the industry should be focusing our science for the future,” he says.

“We are going to have to consider a different venue if the numbers attending continue to grow.”

Benefit to New Zealand

From 2006 to 2015, the number of industrial attendees at the workshop rose from 33 to 65. We estimate that in 2015, the meat processing industry invested about $85,000 in time and travel to have their senior staff attend, suggesting that they expected to gain a substantially greater benefit from the workshop than that investment.

While the specific impact of a particular workshop cannot be readily estimated, there is a clear overall impact from the research, development and technology transfer in which processors, their technology and R&D suppliers are engaged. For example, according to the MIA, the meat processing industry employs about 25,000 people around regional New Zealand and those people produced 43.2 tonnes of export meat per worker in 2013 compared to 23 tonnes in 1980. This was an 88% increase over 33 years, or 2% compounding annual growth in volumetric productivity, at the same time that the industry greatly increased value-adding to the point where 97% of red meat exports have value added.

According to Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s 2014 Annual Report, meat and by-product exports from New Zealand were worth $6.7 billion in the year to September 2014, of which we estimate about 70% was procurement costs and thus the value added by the meat processing industry was about $2 billion.