Consumers are increasingly demanding beef from ‘happy’ cattle that are reared, treated well and grazed on spacious pastures.
Speaking at the Stockmans School in Free State recently, Lee Leachman, chief executive of the Leachman Cattle Company in the US, said that more and more people believe that animals have the same rights as humans and cattle will increasingly be treated like pets by 2020.
Leachman said that some supermarkets in the US go so far as to insist that beef comes from animals that are reared on at least 60m² pasture for each animal.
“Consumers can’t relate to agricultural production. It doesn’t matter what the farmers believe, the consumer always wins. A small percentage of people are directly involved in agriculture and they can’t afford to educate the rest of the population on agricultural practices.”
Hannes Haasbroek, general manager of B Hurwitz Farming near Ermelo, said that although environmentalists are hammering on producing beef on bigger pastures, there was no need to change their operations yet. “At this stage, the (local) consumer is not really driving the way beef is produced. We are focused on increasing profit in a sustainable way rather than fitting into this kind of niche market,” he said.
Supermarkets, however, experience an increase in demand for meat produced from ‘happy’ animals. Donovan Hayes, Pick ‘n Pay general manager for butcheries in Western Cape, said that there is a niche market for cattle raised in more humane conditions, which is why the retailer brought out a “country reared programme” 10 years ago. Hayes added that an increasing number of farmers are moving towards humane practices to take advantage of this niche market.
Leachman concluded that farmers will not win the public relations battle with consumers. “We have to alter our animal handling to satisfy the public.” – Lindi van Rooyen