Mark McLean is currently the managing director and co-owner of Riverhaven Enterprises and Top Multiplier Pty Ltd – both family agricultural companies operating 2000 sows on two independent 1000 sow pig farms in South Australia. Joining Australian Pork Limited in November 2019 as a producer director on the Board, Mr McLean has extensive experience in agribusiness and is actively involved in the industry through roles with Pork SA and as an APL delegate. When asked for his insight into the drivers behind increased demand for pork over the past 12 months, Mr McLean said, “Pork is a great value proposition for consumers with beef and lamb remaining at very high prices.”
“The global pork shortage created by African swine fever impacts in China has driven several opportunities in export markets for Australian pork.
“Australian Pork Limited has maintained its commitment to marketing Australian pork with advertising and meal solution options, which has helped consumers consider other cooking options for Pork.”
With national beef and lamb animal numbers on farm reducing after several years of drought combined with expensive grain and fodder prices, these industries are now rebuilding their numbers as pasture becomes available and feed prices reduce. The consumer preference for traditional ‘red’ meats appears to be historical and is occasionally due to a lack of confidence with cooking pork, which can affect the eating experience.
“With new research and innovation, and changing production and processing methods over time, we are now producing pork with a high eating quality at more affordable prices than beef and lamb,” Mr McLean said.
“Since COVID-19 hit, we have seen a 30 percent increase in the consumption of pork at home, which will hopefully continue.” Foodservice and restaurant trade were severely impacted during the disruptions of 2020 and particularly hard hit was Melbourne, with ongoing Victorian lockdowns. However, the value proposition of pork for in-home meal solutions has become very evident with many people concerned about their financial situation. To assist with consumer education, the current marketing campaign by APL encourages shoppers to identify and purchase pork products with 100% Australian-grown content.
Competing with imported pork products, Australian pork struggles from a price perspective. “For locally produced pork-based smallgoods to succeed, we need a long-term commitment to this market from pig farmers and smallgoods manufacturers to develop high quality products and brands that consumers consistently have access to,” Mr McLean said.
“These products need to be simply and clearly branded as Australian to make it easy for consumers to choose to buy local.
“Australian companies manufacturing ham and bacon could choose to really showcase their locally supplied product range and capture the support for ‘buy local’ that seems to be evident at present.
“Local pork products with more than 90 percent Australian content in the bar chart on the label use Australian pork and support Aussie farmers, local regional communities and jobs within the transport, manufacturing and retail sectors across Australia.
“The Australian Pork logo remains a simple way to know the pork you buy is Australian.” When it comes to exporting, Mr McLean said Australian food has food safety and quality standards that are equal with the best in the world.
“When we compete for exports in the commodity space however, this standard is expected,” he said.
“To provide a different offering within export markets is difficult from a whole of industry perspective, but individual companies may choose to diversify using premium-branded products, with attributes such as breed or production type.
“The export of fresh pork into Singapore for many years using a ‘common specification’ was quite successful initially, and I wonder if something similar could be achieved in other export markets providing a ‘brand Australian Pork’ type approach for a number of exporters to work collaboratively on.” With the increase in market share due to high beef and lamb prices, and greater consumer awareness around Australian-grown pork products, producers of smaller 100-200 sow farms can be confident in their future.
“Having good relationships with the different needs of customers is vital moving forward – after all it doesn’t matter what size your pig farm is, it matters if you have a home for every pig produced,” Mr McLean said.
“There are efficiencies in pig farm size growing over time and there are also challenges.
“For any pork producer to remain in business the fundamental drivers are the same regardless of farm size – productivity per sow, having a margin over costs and producing a quality pig for your end customer.”