Success in the meat industry requires three critical elements that need to be sought, managed and planned for. These are having a reliable supply; a mechanism for converting what comes off the farm into a form someone can consume; and customers. You need also to understand how markets might change and how you respond.”
One of the more significant developments in the industry he helped develop was the move from shipping whole carcasses overseas for processing to ‘adding value’(cutting) at source.
“The best market, or best price for every individual cut, doesn’t reside with any single person in any one part of the world. Take a lamb for example. The North American market will prefer French racks. We’ll send loins to central parts of Europe, shoulders to Japan, legs to the United Kingdom and flaps and breasts to China. Splitting the carcass up into portions, or cuts, before export has been a major contributor to improving our returns.” The same situation exists for beef export and, to a lesser extent, venison.
For the industry, says Craig, the next change and breakthrough could come from finding the means of satisfactorily carrying a brand identity right through to the person who eats the product.
“First of all you’ve got retailers who don't want you to have a brand but use theirs instead. Meat, by its nature, is generally sold, cooked and consumed ‘naked’. Contrast this with a wine bottle that sits on the table where the country of origin, as well as the actual brand, is clearly visible. The next variable that we have no control over is who actually cooks the meat. The cut may be perfect but then spoiled if the cook isn’t competent.”
“Overcoming this and having a relationship with people directly will produce all important feedback loops about consistency, service delivery, pricing and positioning.” Ironically for a food product trading off Brand New Zealand has a major disadvantage.
“I’m quite convinced that when it comes to the eating experience our product will be at least as good as the local product. Yet for a variety of reasons New Zealand’s price positioning is generally below the domestic product”
“Bear in mind that our supply history started as being a relatively affordable form of protein for a hungry Britain post World War II. That connotation still carries through. Supermarkets use our product to drive foot traffic by heavily discounting it often for less than cost. Over 70% of the lamb we supply to the United Kingdom is still used as discounted ‘bait’ to attract shoppers.”
Another business pressure is securing enough productive land to ensure supply. In his Hawkes Bay home traditional beef and sheep farmers have been driven further into the hills with horticulture and viticulture—particularly vineyards, orchards, cropping—and dairying vying for the same soil. He takes all of this in stride. “Everything is always evolving and changing. Things are always in a state of flux with the one guarantee that it will never be a dull day.”