HomeAgri NewsRed meat: Collaboration is the key to success

Red meat: Collaboration is the key to success


Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

During the 30th Conference and Congress of the Red Meat Abattoir Association (RMAA), a variety of topics were on the agenda, including red meat exports, residue monitoring, and the wellbeing of animals. Discussions also covered the maritime transport of livestock and innovative technologies such as mobile abattoir designs, chemical sterilisation, and water treatment methods.

The prestigious event took place at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West and serves as a platform to disseminate vital information about the abattoir and broader meat industry to stakeholders. This year, the theme was “Harmonised advocacy for the red meat industry.”

Although Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, could not be present at the congress, she conveyed her gratitude to the red meat sector for its collaborative efforts with the government in securing new markets, such as Saudi Arabia. She acknowledged the industry’s contributions to policy and procedural advancements.

In her message, she highlighted the fact that 41% of the cattle herd belongs to the informal sector and stressed the importance of inclusive growth across the entire value chain. She also raised concerns regarding biosecurity within the red meat sector, noting the complex social, cultural, and economic implications of managing diseases such as foot and mouth disease.

Niel Venter, chairperson of the RMAA, expressed the significance of the minister’s message to the congress, interpreting it as a testament to the importance she places on the red meat industry. He affirmed the RMAA’s positive outlook on the industry’s future and the prospects of entering new markets. Echoing the minister’s sentiments, Venter emphasised that biosecurity measures are a collective responsibility within the industry’s value chain.

Foot-and-mouth disease remains a challenge

Participants at the congress voiced their concerns regarding the detrimental impact of foot-and-mouth disease on feedlots and abattoirs, particularly issues arising post-quarantine. Venter acknowledged that the disease presents a significant obstacle for these operations. The RMAA is committed to collaborating with the animal health division at the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to formulate more explicit protocols for managing outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.

There are heightened levels of concern within the industry regarding the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Eastern Cape and its spread within the region. Venter emphasised the necessity of a united effort among all stakeholders in the value chain to enforce biosecurity measures effectively.

Rethinking the use of water

Dr Gerhard Neethling, general manager of the RMAA, highlighted the industry’s innovative shift in response to limited water and electricity resources. He emphasised that traditional sterilisation methods, which rely on continuous use of water heated to 82°C, are being re-evaluated.

According to Dr Neethling, the industry has successfully tested chemical agents that effectively sterilise equipment in cold water, ensuring the same level of food safety. Currently, a comprehensive set of guidelines for chemical sterilisation is being developed for industry-wide adoption and will be shared with the DALRRD.

Last year, the RMAA undertook the training of nearly 4 000 workers in abattoirs, underscoring the critical role of education in maintaining food safety standards. Dr Neethling pointed out that abattoirs, where animals are transformed into consumable products, are high-risk zones for contamination during the slaughtering process.

Dr Neethling further stated: “Integrating both routine and formal training is vital for upholding the food safety assurances we provide to consumers as a responsible industry.”

Export markets are a priority

The RMAA plays a major role in identifying new export markets for red meat. Dr Neethling said this could be attributed to good communication between the industry and the DALRRD. The good communication between the industry and the DALRRD began with the FMD outbreak in 2019, when South Africa’s export markets suddenly closed.

This communication and collaboration with the DALRRD continued and there is now a monthly engagement to provide feedback on market priorities and possible constraints of specific markets.

Dr Neethling also said residue monitoring is a very important aspect of the safety certification of products and to ensure that local consumers buy a safe product.

The verification programmes for residue monitoring of export products have been put in place by the DALRRD and the industry has similar programmes at each abattoir. These programmes are based on European guidelines, norms, and standards. The industry is now in the process of adjusting the norms and standards to make sure it meets the European standards, Dr Neethling said.

Animal welfare is important

Dr Neethling said animal welfare is an important aspect of the abattoir industry in South Africa. “We know that if we don’t look after the welfare of the animals, it has negative implications for the animal, the end product and the industry.”

This also applies to the export of live animals by sea. The industry is not opposed to the export of live animals by sea, but assurance must be given that the welfare of the animals is comes first. Observers on the ships should provide full feedback afterwards to ensure that good welfare practices applied – not only during the transport of the animals, but also before they are loaded onto the ship and offloaded at the port of destination.

Traceability has economic value

Dr Phillip Oosthuizen, chief operations officer at Red Meat Industry Services (RMIS), said one of the objectives of RMIS is to grow the South Africa’s red meat export market from 4% to 20%. “To do this, we need 250 000 additional weaner calves from the emerging sector to enter the commercial value chain.”

To grow the export market, the red meat industry needs a traceability system. Traceability is about collecting and sharing data. “There has to be an economic benefit when we practice traceability, otherwise it would have a cost implication and become a struggle to get an uptake among all role-players throughout the red meat value chain.”

With the development of a traceability solution for the red meat industry there are some basic principles to keep in mind. Trust forms the basis of participation (who is collecting the data, where the data is going and how we share the data), the provision of options based on preference and utility, and transparency of data utilisation and risk mitigation towards data sharing.

Existing models are not suitable

Dewald Olivier, chief executive officer of RMIS, said in terms of data sharing, it is not easy to create a traceability solution for the red meat industry. “When we presented this project of data sharing to role-players, they asked why we don’t just follow Namibia or Botswana. If we are going to do that, it will take us another 50 years to catch up. We have to take the leap; we have to think out of the box and create something new, something that perhaps does not exist anywhere else in the world. I don’t know of any livestock industry in the world that follows the GS1 standard.

“As an industry we do the right things, but we don’t document it. It is actually such a small number of people who don’t want to follow the rules. It is time for us as an industry to raise the flag and identify those people. Let’s identify them, since they are the creators of our problems. We need to follow the rules,” Olivier said. – Hugo Lochner, Plaas Media

Must Read

Extensive research conducted on disease resistance

Every year animal diseases lead to millions of rand worth of production losses. Since control is becoming increasingly more expensive and challenging, scientists are...