Animal welfare, environmental, & ethical issues affecting the value of NZ’s pastoral products.

Executive Summary

By introducing myself from the outset, I hope to help you understand where I’m coming from … my perspective, my personal bias, my motivation, my interests, i.e. an insight into why I may see the world differently from you.

I am the current owner operator of our intergenerational family beef farm, which I hope will provide a solid base for our family for many generations to come.

In 2006 we were the winners of the inaugural Northland Ballance Farm Environment Award, and from 2007 to 2009 we were the Far North, Meat and Wool NZ monitor farmers.

Our beef farm, like most NZ pastoral businesses, is committed to profitable and repeatable means of producing high quality animal protein products from resident pastures grown in conditions (soils, climates, locations, etc) unsuitable for growing crops for direct human consumption.

NZ pastoral farmers have made great productivity gains since subsidies were abruptly removed 25 years ago, to the point that many now feel they are pushing the boundaries of environmentally sustainable profitability. With a productivity glass ceiling reached, our products need to become more valuable in order to compensate for rising costs, and to enable us to lift production to satisfy the demand of the growing world population.

I sought the travel opportunity which a Nuffield NZ Farming Scholarship offers, to understand better the multitude of factors affecting the value of NZ pastoral products, to see how other farmers are responding to similar challenges, and to bring home ideas which may assist in sustaining greater profitability for NZ pastoral farmers.

It was my privilege to visit England, Wales, Brussels, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, USA, Hong Kong, Korea, China and Australia during 5 consecutive months of travel during 2009.

In an effort to give this report a focus, it primarily regards the rise of animal welfare, environmental and ethical issues on the global stage, and in particular, in our UK lamb and US beef markets. I will digress towards the end of the report and touch on other observations which may impact on the long term viability of farmers like myself.

Having always considered myself an optimist, my Nuffield experience was quite sobering. The cost of food will continue to rise, but I see no end in sight to the rising compliance costs of farming, or to the costs of accessing the global marketplace.

In the year ended 30 September 2009, the pastoral farming sector produced 42% of the FOB value of NZ’s total merchandise exports (data provided in email from Meat & Wool NZ Agricultural Analyst).

Animal welfare, environmental, & ethical issues affecting the value of NZ’s pastoral products. – Alec Jack

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