NORTH SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – In 2009-2010, the growing momentum of the Meat Standards Australia (M.S.A.) continued, with most beef processors applying M.S.A. as the minimum standard to underpin the eating quality of some or all of their brands.

M.S.A. beef-grading numbers reached 1.25 million head — an increase of 27% over last year — while in its second full year of processing M.S.A. lamb numbers more than doubled to 508,000 head.

Adding a number of new processing plants to the list of M.S.A. licensees, together with the growth of existing brands underpinned by the program, has led to increased grading numbers across the program, said Michael Crowley, M.S.A. manager.

"The M.S.A. lamb program has experienced a strong start with numbers up significantly on the first year and expected to grow exponentially during 2010-11," he said. "In 2010-11, we expect over 1 million lambs to be processed through the M.S.A. program. There will be a very strong focus on delivering the eating quality outcomes through branding strategies into the trade leading to pull through demand from retail and foodservice.

The beef program has reached the point where the majority of processors use it and M.S.A. is increasingly accepted as the standard for eating quality, Mr. Crowley said. "The total volume of beef graded is expected to grow by another 20% in 2010-11 on the basis of two key drivers: existing participants aiming to increase volumes of branded product underpinned by M.S.A. on the market, and new plants recently signing on to the program and planning to launch their own brands," he said.

Plans for the program in 2010-11 include hosting 90 M.L.A. Edge Network workshops for both beef and lamb producers around the country, Mr. Crowley said. The workshops address the principles of the M.S.A. program and how to best prepare livestock for compliance to M.S.A. specifications, which earn premiums averaging A$0.15/kg for beef.

Approximately 16,000 Australian beef and sheep producers are now registered M.S.A. suppliers, with an average of 90% of cattle presented for grading meeting M.S.A. specifications. There are 39 certified M.S.A. beef processing plants across Australia and seven certified M.S.A. lamb processing plants in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.