Hi-tech system a game changer for Aussie beef
QUALITY Australian beef has long been Alisdair Robertson's passion, and his greatest motivation to launch something new in the industry.
Years of work culminated in Mr Robertson introducing the Australian Certified Humane beef cattle standards to the national market, and now his system has transformed into a hi-tech operation.
The ACH is using blockchain technology to store detailed information on every humanely-raised beast, with the aim of giving consumers more insight in to the beef they are eating.
Mr Robertson is a butcher by trade and a former restuaranteur; he is currently Emerald-based, but the profession has taken him to St George, Baralaba, Brisbane, and everywhere in between.
He said the whole idea started with his own desire to know more about the products coming through his shops, and the fine dining restaurant.
"I was sharing this product daily, but wasn't happy with the description of it, nor the lack of traceability, and felt consumers also wanted more" he said.
"I felt they wanted more information on where their product was coming from, and what it was exactly - whether it was grass fed or grain fed, and more about the animal's welfare as it was going through the whole process."
As for the move to blockchain technology, it is something relatively new in any food industry.
The system itself is a way to securely and permanently store data - in this case, the history of beef cattle - in a way that can't be altered or falsified.
"A consumer would then scan the barcode of the product (with their smartphone) and it would show information like which property the animal came from, and any other important information, right back to its place of birth," Mr Robertson said.
For Mr Roberston and Australian Certified Humane, it means every consumer can know what really goes in to their beef.
He said the new technology is the cornerstone of traceability in the industry, but it is Aussie graziers who will ideally reap the tangible benefits.
"It is all about consumers getting what they pay for, and if they can get that, I believe it will drive Australian beef too," Mr Robertson said.
"We want to give them the Omega 3 grass fed beef which they are paying for … and it could drive that beef to a price point well over what it is receiving at the moment - maybe a 15 to 20 per cent over and above what the grass fed prices are now."
This innovation for the beef industry has happened through a partnership with Australian Certified Humane and Fresh Supply Co, a company which is introducing the same blockchain process to trace all kinds of products from the ag industry.
While they take care of the tech, another group is ensuring each cut of beef meets the ACH standards; Livestock Integrity Solutions is also working with Australian Certified Humane as auditors for both beef and pasture standards - a vital part of ensuring cattle can be called 'grass fed'.
Following on from Australian beef, Mr Robertson is hopeful the trio of groups can move further in to the agricultural sector, and create the same standards and traceability for other locally-grown products.
"Beef is the first of a campaign to give consumers more information about Australia Certified Humane products," he said.
"We have also started work on a lamb standard, and will be working with sheep producers to create both a wool and lamb standard over the next 12 to 18 months.
"It is really a campaign to bring information on all Australian animal proteins to the fore, whether it is beef, lamb, chicken, pork, eggs or seafood; we aim to cover all of those proteins as time goes by, and grass fed beef is the first to be completed."