Meat and Livestock Australia’s decision to re-recruit its one-time European marketing chief, turned big beef business boss, Jason Strong, has scored well with the red meat industry.
Mr Strong takes over as MLA managing director on April 1, having recently led the Australian Agricultural Company and Queensland beef producer and lot feeder, Smithfield Cattle Company.
Meat sector players have welcomed his diverse experience and depth of understanding.
Apart from a previous three-year MLA career, he has owned a retail butchery business, led pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s animal DNA technology division growth domestically and overseas, and played a pioneering role developing the Meat Standards Australia grading system for eating quality.
Originally from a livestock background at Gunnedah in North West NSW where the family still farms, he is also a former Cattlemen’s Union of Australia vice president and had a 17-year connection with the Intercollegiate Meat Judging program.
He certainly understands the complexity of the red meat supply chain – I think he’s a good choice
Lately Mr Strong has headed Australia’s Europe Union and United Kingdom Red Meat Market Access Taskforce as beef and lamb exporters face serious trade uncertainty with Britain’s looming split from the EU.
“He certainly understands the complexity of the red meat supply chain – I think he’s a good choice and we look forward to him in the job,” said Victorian Western District sheep and cattle producer and Sheep Producers Australia director, Michael Craig, at Harrow.
“He’s worked up and down the value chain, and had international and domestic career experiences ranging from local butcher shops to working with global livestock genetics.
“Although from a beef background, we’re hopeful Jason’s cognisant of the multitude of different sheep meat industry value chains and will promote collaborative work across the spectrum, whether they’re selling to the white tablecloth restaurants or Pacific island markets.”
He said MLA’s track record on innovation was good and Mr Strong seemed well capable of fostering that further.
Similar sentiments were shared by central NSW sheep producer, agribusiness director and former Sheep Co-operative Research Centre chairman, John Keniry.
“Jason has diverse livestock business experience and I’m impressed with the job the MLA board’s doing,” he said.
“MLA’s done a really good job at research and marketing work for the sheep meat industry – and I trust it will continue with him at the helm.”
But Red Meat Advisory Council chairman, Don Mackay, wanted “renewed focus on high quality and progressive research and marketing for our sector”.
He said Mr Strong’s appointment came at a crucial time for Australia’s 82,500 lot feeders, meat processors, retailers and livestock export businesses.
His leadership, collaboration and problem-solving skills would be needed in key areas like emerging market access opportunities in Europe, a generational shift in Australia’s red meat industry, and the current review into the rural innovation system.
Mr Strong replaces Richard Norton who left MLA in December after four and a half years, joining Elders as branch network general manager.
Although unable to talk publicly about the new job since MLA chairman, Michele Allan, confirmed he was Mr Norton’s replacement last week, an MLA statement quoting Mr Strong said it was an exciting time to return to MLA.
“I look forward to working with MLA’s board, staff, red meat producers and the broader industry to make certain we are best positioned to respond to challenges and opportunities ahead,” he said.
“I want to ensure MLA’s current programs and projects continue delivering value, but also … what is required for the red meat industry’s future success.
“Having past experience within MLA and as an external partner, I understand the workings and responsibilities of our industry research and marketing service company.
“While many red meat producers and others in the value chain currently face tough conditions, MLA will continue to do everything it can to support and enhance the success and global competitiveness of our red meat industry.”
Dr Allan said MLA directors were extremely confident Mr Strong would make “an outstanding contribution and will continue to foster the prosperity of our industry on behalf of the producers we serve”.
Jason has significant on-farm experience – a unique understanding of what is expected from MLA on behalf of levy payers.
“He returns to MLA with comprehensive red meat and livestock experience, knowledge and connections,” she said.
“Jason has significant on-farm experience – a unique understanding of what is expected from MLA on behalf of levy payers.
“He was the standout candidate for this highly coveted position.”
I was surprised when he left AACo, but I think his experience and understanding of both commercial and public institutions will probably be even more helpful to him in this job
Long-time beef innovation leader and agribusiness executive, John Griffith, agreed, saying MLA “is lucky to have him back”.
“I was a bit surprised when he left AACo, but I think his experience and understanding of both commercial and public institutions will probably be even more helpful to him in this job,” said Mr Griffith, a former, long-serving AACo managing director, and past North Australia Pastoral Company director.
“I think his involvement across the industry on levels makes him a good choice.”
Australian Lot Feeders Association president, Bryce Camm, was also quick to note Mr Strong’s “breadth of knowledge, consultative approach, commercial acumen and respect from industry colleagues”.
Cattle Council of Australia boss, Margo Andrae, pointed to his “proven leadership skills and extensive experience” and how CCA had enjoyed a strong working relationship with Mr Strong for many years.
Victorian sheep industry consultant Nathan Scott hoped Mr Strong’s MSA credentials would push the red meat industry be more proactive about responding to consumer priorities such as eating quality and animal welfare.
“We need to look through consumers eyes, rather getting too blinkered by production issues,” said Mr Scott at Achieve Ag Solutions, Geelong.
“In general I hope the red meat sector can become far more focused at making the news, rather than responding to the news.
“Richard Norton was good at the MLA job while he lasted, but in general ag industry leadership has been fairly underwhelming – not unlike our national political leadership, actually.
“I’d like MLA’s new leadership to deliver a fresh, purposeful and proactive approach for the whole industry to follow.”
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