IT’S A young idea for an ancient culture, and a world of possibilities lie ahead for Murri Yuri, or Blackfella Beef.
Indigenous-branded beef could have options not only to export into Asian markets, but also to market domestically.
It might be cold chain meat products or perhaps long shelf life protein products such as jerky and energy bars.
It could be produced by individual businesses, or through a network of indigenous-owned properties; it could link to other bush-food producers; it could even have potential as a centre for tourism.
There are a multitude of possible paths being explored through a new research partnership project between Western Kangoulu cattle properties, Meat and Livestock Australia, and the University of Southern Queensland’s agricultural value chains and food systems team, headed up by Professor Alice Woodhead.
Professor Woodhead said her team was helping Western Kangoulu to develop the “Blackfella Beef” concept, extending on beef production already established by the group on properties such as Urannah Station.
“We are helping them to develop their brand, to develop their value chain, to develop new products and potential markets for their products,” Professor Woodhead said.
“From their point of view, they are going to share a whole lot of information with us about their management practices, their stock management in particular, and they will then look at how they can improve their production to optimise their land.
“On a follow-on basis, once we’ve done this pilot study we are looking at taking this approach across other indigenous groups in Australia who are interested in taking up branded beef products.”
The USQ team includes specialists in food technology, logistics, branding and export.
The project will see collaboration to find the right fit of product for Western Kangoulu, establishing a business model that can be transferred to other indigenous organisations.
The approach will see the idea of beef and cattle shifted from a cattle-commodity basis to exploring a range of valueadding processes that make use of more of the beast than simply its best and most popular cuts, and that allow the producer to retain branding of the product from paddock to plate, and potentially taking control of a larger portion of the product’s supply chain.
“Beef is traditionally thought of as a steak or a roast, a fresh or chilled beef product, but the reality is that beef is a protein that can be used in a wide variety of products,” Prof Woodhead said.
“We’re going to look at how they can build a brand around a much wider range of products, from dried shelf stable products that don’t have the constraints of cold chains, and the need to keep the beef in a certain condition, through to optimum beef patties, which might be flavoured by particular herbs and spices that are bush foods.
“We’re looking at energy foods. One of the things I’ve noted when talking with the group is that they have a very strong social responsibility approach.
“For example, they are interested in developing a high protein beef energy bar, which could be used by children who get to school in the morning in remote or even in city areas, and who don’t have a proper breakfast.
“This would give the children that mental edge to have a better day at school.
“So, we’re going to look at a wide range of products and how to position their brand, based on social entrepreneurship and ethical approaches as well as financial profitability, and underpinning that will be helping them consider the environmental issues in terms of the management of their land and how to optimise production, but at the same time managing droughts etcetera.”
Professor Woodhead is also a board member of the Australian ASEAN Council.
“My team has been working closely with ASEAN countries, looking at what their demands will be into the future, which are lifestyle high energy products, but it’s also highlighted to me their interest in indigenous culture,” she said.
“They want products to have meaning, to have some cultural significance.
“So it was the marriage of two interesting concepts.
“The fact that there’s a lot of health properties in our Australian indigenous plants, and that could be combined with a high protein product like beef.
“That was an excellent marriage of products for the Asian market.
“The demand for
We are looking at taking this approach across other indigenous groups in Australia.
— Alice Woodhead
traceability is really strong, and people want to have an ethical product as well.
“And this can mean the Asian consumer can potentially be linked back straight to the indigenous cattle farmers in Australia, and they can be assured that they are supporting indigenous farming.
“There’s a whole culture around indigenous cattlemen, renowned for their brilliant horsemanship, and those skills will be promoted as part of the brand.”
The pilot project will continue to September 2019, and Professor Woodhead is optimistic about how the project would have developed by that time.
“We anticipate we’ll have half a dozen or so value propositions set up, and well under way in their development,” she said.
“We would hope that they’ll be moving into production.
“They’ve got the cattle on the land right now, and we would hope we would be engaging a broader range of beef producers in Queensland and Australia to work with us on developing in scale.
“We’d like to have the brand well established by then, and we’d like to have all the
business model and the processes well-established and tested.”
Beyond direct jobs created on cattle stations, there are value-adds for regional and rural economic development around a branded supply chain including agriculture around growing additional
ingredients like herbs and spices, food processing, transport, packaging, even into tourism and restaurants.
“What we aim to do is to create jobs in regional areas that create food products, rather than exporting beef and commodity cattle,” Professor Woodhead said.