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The research executed on the Australian Meat Industry depicts the number of challenging risks that the industry has to face, such as dealing with upcoming new pathogens or bacteria that affect the quality of the meat and drive down the profitability for the firms making up the whole industry. In addition to this, the research performed assesses the strategies being implemented by the industry and the government in order to mitigate the risk involved by testing and grading the meat and by increasing quality standards set by the government and the firms themselves. Furthermore, this research conducted helps to analyze the recent developments or initiatives being taken in this field so as to reduce the risk attached with the provision of meat to the consumers through research and development in order to highlight the technological innovations that could help reduce the risk associated with the meat industry.
The Australian meat industry is a well-established industry that is renown all over the world for its exports of commercial livestock and red meat. According to estimates at Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), Australia's industry of beef and sheep-meat is valued at 16.1 billion Australian Dollars. This is a substantial amount which puts Australia near the top when it comes to the export of red meat and it also provides livelihood for a majority of the rural people.
The gradual changes in the use of land in Australia have brought down the flock of sheep from nearly 170 million head (MLA, 2007) to a mere 72.7 million head. The size of cattle herds has also been reduced in recent times. On average, it has been estimated that Australians consume 46.5 kg of red meat each year and this is composed of mostly beef; followed by lamb and mutton.
Rory Harrington (2009) discusses the threat to the meat industry as of late where the new rule which came out in that year by the government announced that Australia would once again open up its borders to those countries from which it had banned its imports due to the worldwide spread of "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy". This led to fears being voiced by the people of Australia on the spread of such a disease which could pose as a major threat to the meat industry of Australia which constituted or formed a large part of the GDP of that country. Moreover, the domestic market also voiced its concerns whereby the exports of the country could be devastatingly affected by such a manoeuvre.
As of recent date Butler et al., (2010) stated that the meat industry in Australia would be undergoing a hard time due to the financial problems that most of the firms and abattoirs were facing owing to the tough innovative competition from overseas meat industries and because of which they had to shut down their operations thereby reducing the industry size of the Australian meat industry.
MAJOR AREAS OF RISK IN THIS INDUSTRY
There are a number of risks that are faced by the Australian meat industry on a daily basis. Ross et al. (2009) describes how food-borne pathogens can result in meat becoming contaminated and these results in a number of outbreaks in nations where the processed meat is sent to. Listeria Monocytogenes are the so-called pathogens which can easily be transferred from one place to another, resulting in the spread of diseases and illnesses. The model constructed by Ross et al. (2009) shows the effects of their study where they are able to fully describe how pathogens can spread through processed meat and how this spread results in risks for those who consume the meat. Salmonella enterica is the forerunner to the causes of gastroenteritis in Australia (Fearnley et al., 2011).
Similar studies were undertaken where a profile of the risk factors of microbe-based threats was developed in order to fully comprehend the various factors that result in diseases (Sumner et al., 2005). Several different pairings of deadly pathogens with meat were hypothesized and tested in order to find out how the Australian public is at risk. The results of the study indicated that there was indeed a high level of risk associated with the food-borne pathogens and so these results were shared with the various risk managers in the Australian meat industry in order to raise more awareness. Pointon et. al (2006) also conducted a similar risk-based analysis and the results were also distributed to the risk managers, private, and public companies so that prevention of diseases can be dealt with in an efficient and organized manner.
Droughts and floods are also responsible for most of the risks faced by the livestock of Australia. Desmarchelier et al. (2007) mention that droughts in recent times are the reasons for some of the water conservation exercises being practised by a large number of people. This results in less water being available for livestock. On the other hand, recent floods or large amounts of rain can also result in a number of parasitic problems for livestock producers. These parasites are responsible for decreasing the rate of growth of herds, damage the skin of the livestock, decrease the production of milk, and reduce the rate of reproduction of the livestock (MLA, 2007). A few parasites are responsible for the death of livestock through blood loss, diarrhoea, and infection.
STANDARDS RELATING TO THE IDENTIFIED RISK AREA
The red meat industry of Australia is working under an "outcomes-based food safety programme" (Desmarchelier et al., 2007) which is decided by a number of regulatory bodies. The main objective is to see whether the red meat products, that are available for consumption by people, are complying with the numerous health and safety requirements. Meat & Livestock Australia and the Meat Industry Services (MIS) employ highly qualified scientists who study meat. These scientists are adept in the fields of refrigeration, animal welfare, maintaining the quality of the meat, etc. The findings of studies are published with six newsletters being published in one year as well as keeping the online publications up-to-date.
Moreover, research is being conducted in the field of microbiology which can predict the interaction of micro-organisms with food by constructing complex models although it is absolutely important that skilled personnel should continue to be relied upon when we are dealing with risks of meat infection (McDonald and Sun, 1999).
The meat industry saw a rise in the food safety systems that were put into practice in Australia and the results indicated that the industry reaped benefits from implementing such safety acts, known as HACCP; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, which resulted in the industry experiencing a reduction in the number of customer complaints that they received due to an improvement in the food hygiene level and quicker feedback responses; it also benefitted the economy as an increase in trade was brought about through a rise in the export demand of the Australian meat overseas (Khatri and Collins, 2007).
In addition to this, Polkinghorne et al., (2008), identified the workings of MSA, the Meat Standards Australia, whereby they observed the varying qualities of meat and set a standard for the meat industries to meet which would require them to have their meat tested and graded so as to certify that the whole industry conforms to the standards set by them. These steps ensured that the customers got their meat which would be free of pathogens and hence healthy for consumers. Moreover, due to the significance attached to the tests that the meat undergoes as part of government requirement also ensures that at every step through the production phase to the processing and retail phase, the meat is thoroughly tested and graded to meet quality standards and thus check at every stage the risks in the form of pathogens associated with meat production.
Furthermore through the introduction and induction of the "on-farm risk management" the Australian Meat Industry is now recognized as one of the leading countries which provide quality meat worldwide by conforming to stringent on-farm management policies such as complying with the policies set by the government and by verifying and testing each stage of the process on the farm (Meat safety and Traceability, n.d.).
DEVELOPMENTS IN DEALING WITH THE IDENTIFIED RISK AREA IN THIS INDUSTRY
Despite a number of studies undertaken to provide the meat industry with awareness of pathogens and other microbial diseases, the meat industry is rather divided and there is no integrated system which has the desirable effect of properly immunizing all livestock producers and consumers against risks (Desmarchelier et al., 2007).
Horchner et al. (2006) conducted a hazard based analysis in order to indicate the apt on-farm safety measures so that goats, cattle, and sheep can be protected against diseases. The method used helped specify specific points of control of pathogens and diseases. The results showed that a combination of a few easy-to-implement "good agricultural practices" can help decrease the amount of risk that is present in the rearing and provision of the meat of goat, cattle, and sheep. An on-farm safety scheme took form as a result of these studies and this helped educate people, especially the livestock producers, about microbial hazards.
Desmarchelier et al. (2007) describes various methods of dealing with the risks involved in the production and distribution of red meat. It is known that contamination of meat starts on the farms so this requires that the animals are looked after properly. The health and the living environment of livestock must be kept clean and proper medication must be given to the animals in order to decrease the amount and level of risk. The use of chemicals has been approved of by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority so that red meat can be properly immunized against diseases and microbes.
Zhang et al. (2010) provide solutions to the problem of microbial infestation. Their study focuses on methods which aim to improve the health of livestock and those that aim to reduce the risk of diseases contracted by livestock. Different solutions and compounds such as vitamin E and selenium can be added to the diets of animals so that there is a better quality of meat in livestock. Also, the livestock producers can add proteins, fibres, peptides, etc. to improve the quality of meat. These dietary supplements can be given to the livestock at any level in the production phase. The dependency of success does not lie with the producers alone.
These days, consumers are becoming more concerned about their diet and the nutritional value of food (Scollon et al., 2006). Consumers need to accept and buy the meat in order to add to the growth of the economy. If consumers believe that what they are buying is beneficial to their health, they will be inclined to buy meat products more easily. Thus, there is a need for the scientists to spend a greater amount of time and money in informing the customers about the enormous benefits of meat consumption. Changing consumers' attitudes is a crucial factor in increasing the quality of human health (Zhang et al., 2010)
While it may seem that pathogens and microbes are responsible for the diseases in livestock, a fairly recent study by Phillips et al. (2006) shows that the low level of bacteria present in the carcasses of livestock (namely sheep) was not substantial enough to pose a hazardous risk to human health. This is mainly due to the fact that there have been drastic changes in the livestock sector and the meat industry. Huge investments have paved the way for better technology and a greater level of quality in the management and distribution of red meat. There should be extensive planning for longer periods of drought and a bigger drive for vaccination so as to protect livestock (Petherick, 2005).
Therefore on conclusion, the research analysis provides us with a multitude of developmental programs underway by the firms and the government as well so as to decrease the number of risks involved with the processing of meat and to provide better quality standards as the meat industry in Australia is one of the major industries and contributes a large amount to the well being of the economy as a large proportion of the meat produced in Australia is exported to countries worldwide. Moreover, the Western Australian Meat Industry Authority and the Department for Primary and Industries and Resources, are firms joined together to form a formal association and the latter is a government department, which provide regulations and policies for all the firms under its authority that make up the meat industry and report their yearly performances as well as the recent developments that take place with immediate enforcement and implementation so that the meat industry in terms of technological innovation does not lag behind but conforms to the worldwide quality standards and meets customer satisfaction easily and quickly.