MORE than 80 university students and young agricultural professionals have embraced the latest science and industry on-farm practices to improve beef eating experiences for consumers at the inaugural Intercollegiate Meat Judging Northern Conference held in Rockhampton late last week.
The conference was designed to build the pool of intelligent young meat industry representatives through a mix of industry presentations, hands-on workshops, field tutorials, and a meat judging competition.
ICMJ northern conference coordinator Ethan Mooney of Teys Australia, said the new event had been created to cater especially to the needs of the northern beef industry, to attract skilled workers and equip them with a comprehensive knowledge of the factors influencing meat quality.
Until now, ICMJ has run only one tertiary competition each year at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, attracting students from across Australia and overseas with training spread across beef, lamb and pork.
“We deliberately opened up the Northern Conference to include not just university students, but also young staff working in pastoral companies or agribusinesses,” Mr Mooney said.
“The importance of this event for staff professional development has been demonstrated by the fact that more than 25pc of delegates are already working in the industry and have been sent by their businesses to ICMJ to grow their skills and knowledge,” he said.
Keynote speaker Troy Setter, chief executive of the Consolidated Pastoral Co, told participants of how attending ICMJ as a young student had contributed to his career.
“Events like these are really important because the broader your skill set and the broader your experiences, the more employable you are,” Mr Setter said.
He provided delegates with a comprehensive overview of red meat market trends, and the factors influencing consumer decisions to eat beef.
The ICMJ Northern Conference was hosted by CQUniversity and Teys Australia, with support from major program sponsors Meat & Livestock Australia and the Australian Meat Processing Corporation.
CQUniversity agriculture spokesman Michael Thomson said the new northern beef event had opened up the benefits of ICMJ participation to more people than ever and overcome the barriers of distance and qualifications that had prevented many young northern cattle men and women from participating.
The program included presentations on the factors influencing meat eating quality from Dr Peter McGilchrist from the University of New England, new on-farm technologies which can maximise production and carcase quality from CQUniversity’s Professor Dave Swain, and how industry is dealing with activists challenging the sector’s social license to operate, from Teys Australia chief value chain officer, Tom Maguire.
Judging competition winners
In the meat judging competition attached to the event, the individual overall champion was Alastair Scott from University of New England, who scored 500 out of a possible 628 points, with Lawton Elliott from University of Queensland runner-up.
In the teams competition, champion team was University of New England, made up of Alastair Scott, Alexandra Ross, Elizabeth Argue and Sophie Cooper, scoring 1904 out of a possible 2512 points. Runners up were the University of Queensland team, comprising Lawton Elliott, Rhett Elliott, Mia Doering and Belinda Weber.