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Don't thank a Farmer - By Nathan Scott

  • By: Nathan Scott
  • Jan 29, 2018

Have you seen the campaigns that say things like “thank a farmer for your next meal”? What do you think of them?  If our industry thinks “so they should” then we have a problem.  Personally, I think it is crap.  Why should they thank a farmer?  When are we going to thank a teacher, or a doctor, or an electrician?

Don’t get me wrong, if they want to thank us, then great.  But if we think they should, then we have a problem! And I don’t think this is an isolated case.  Some of you may have read a previous article I wrote about leadership, and the fact that real leaders don’t need titles.  Even if you don’t want to be a leader, you can do one thing for our industry.  Don’t be a victim.

In my opinion Australian agriculture plays the victim card far too often, hoping for, perhaps even expecting sympathy, help, and understanding.  Let’s take major natural disasters out of the equation and think about all of the other times Agriculture makes claim for special consideration. My question is WHY?!?!

Why are we expecting consumers to feel sorry for us?   If the average farm operation sold up all assets I’m pretty confident in suggesting that the majority of farmers would be considerably more wealthy than the average consumer.  So why should they feel sorry for you?

And on the subject of consumers, how often are you pausing in your farming operation to think “what would the consumer want me to do?”.  In my travels I often hear people talking about “educating consumers”, but is that actually the answer, or should we be putting more effort into understanding our consumers?  After all, without them we have nothing.

Right now is a great time to be thinking more about our consumers in the livestock industries.  Current pricing positions red meat as a luxury item, but one which (particularly in the case of lamb) is produced as a commodity. This is a dangerous paradigm for long term sustainability, as consumers are expecting high quality, when paying luxury prices.  Are they receiving the consistent high quality that they are paying for?  No one HAS to eat lamb.

The work currently being undertaken by MLA and the Sheep CRC (among others) developing objective measurement of carcass traits, and in particular meat eating quality traits such as intramuscular fat and shear force, can’t come fast enough.  Combined with the development of meat eating quality Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV) we will have the tools to produce lamb with the consumer in mind.  

But tools are only as good as the people that use them.  So I will ask you again, should the consumer be thanking you?  Or should we be thanking them for buying our products, and asking them how we can make it better? Don’t stick your head in the sand and roll out the same lines about how “they wouldn’t understand”, “we have to do it that way”, or “you have to be cruel to be kind”.  Lets just get it right, produce a great product, in a great way, and have consumers genuinely thank us for doing such a bloody good job!