Deer Industry Organisation And Exporters Support Market-led Approach From Farm To Plate

Published: Fri 3 May 2024 09:42 AM
When it comes to the way deer farmers grow their products, the “pull” from New Zealand’s markets is more important than the “push” of domestic environmental regulation, which is there to enable trade, says Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) executive chair, Mandy Bell.
“Consumers of our high value products want to know they’ve been grown to high standards. Our markets are seeking and welcoming the fact that our primary industry is leading New Zealand growers and supporting verification of our products,” Bell says.
Speaking ahead of this year’s Deer Industry Conference that will take place in Napier next week (Wednesday 8 May), she notes, “A lot has happened in the last few years, with speed and significant change. Deer farmers have felt overwhelmed by the speed and scope of changes around environmental policy, but a significant number of them are well progressed in these areas.”
Implementing measures such as a freshwater farm plan or joining the NZ Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP) may well add to the cost of doing business for farmers, but on the other side of that coin it is also underpinning the value of the products being grown, she says.
“The key to success is being able to assure consumers of New Zealand venison and velvet products that the standards being used are verifiable and genuine.”
Over 80 percent of New Zealand’s primary sector exports are going to countries that have mandated climate and ESG (environmental, social and governance) reporting, she notes.
Bell cites the uptake of Science-Based Targets for Forest, Land and Agriculture for emissions reduction as a good example of the way farmers and food processing companies can collaborate using a set of verifiable targets.Deer Industry New Zealand executive chair, Mandy Bell. (Photo supplied)
More than 7,500 entities worldwide have committed to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), including 35 so far in New Zealand. As food and supermarket chains align with emissions reduction targets, they will start to select suppliers that can prove their products have the lowest carbon footprint. Woolworths, for example, has already committed to reducing its Scope 3 emissions (activities not directly controlled by the reporting organisation) by 19 percent by 2030.
One of the New Zealand companies committed to SBTi is Silver Fern Farms, a major processor and exporter of New Zealand venison.
Dave Courtney is Silver Fern Farms’ chief customer officer responsible for the company’s sales and marketing operation. He is also a DINZ board member. Courtney says the company is using SBTi as a framework for credible standards where progress can be demonstrated.Dave Courtney, Silver Fern Farms. (Photo supplied)
Courtney says the NZFAP and NZFAP Plus programmes are another “critical tool” for suppliers to provide credible science-backed measures of the impact of their production systems.
“NZFAP Plus helps ensure suppliers are meeting existing regulation and are ahead of proposed regulation. It positions suppliers favourably for future programme supply. A number of our venison farms are either working through NZFAP Plus or already certified.
“Suppliers going through NZFAP Plus receive specialist on-farm support for implementing best management practices. Silver Fern Farms’ on-farm sustainability advisers can offer suppliers advice and assistance throughout the certification journey to make the process easier.”
Retailers, especially those at the high end, are becoming increasingly demanding on behalf of their customers and that flows through to the standards expected of suppliers.
Customer demands exert costs and pressures on producers, Courtney acknowledges, but he adds that there are consumers who are very focused on carbon footprint, biodiversity and water quality. “We need to build that into our systems to keep moving in the right direction. It’s better to be responding to the pull of the market than just the ‘push’ of regulation.”
Those market signals are especially relevant from First Light’s United States customers, says its general manager venison Matt Gibson.
“This guides our behaviour in terms of the [quality] programmes we subscribe to and what we ask of our farmers. We are continually researching what drives buying behaviours. For First Light this covers animal welfare, soil and environmental health, and assurances around antibiotics, hormones and GMOs,” he says.Matt Gibson, First Light Foods, cooking his favourite meat. (Photo supplied)
Alliance Group is also well on board with market-led systems for quality in premium products, uses NZFAP and NZFAP Plus programmes for its suppliers and also has “special raising claims associated with our premium brands for each livestock class, including Antibiotic Free, Grass-Fed or Free Range,” explains Alliance’s Dan Cairns, group manager assurance, environment and sustainability.
While price and the quality remain at the forefront of customers’ minds, they are seeing a shift towards an interest in environment and sustainability practices, he says.
“This is particularly evident for what is occurring behind the farmgate, with questions around innovative, sustainable or regenerative farming practices.
“Of particular interest are the greenhouse gas emissions throughout the supply chain, with customers wanting to ensure that they are sourcing food from sustainable producers.
Cairns says these discussions are ingrained for UK customers and emerging in EU and North American markets.
“The key to any in-market claim is integrity so it’s important there is an independently audited standard or certification framework.”
“All of the programmes [we use] are independently audited, and different programmes or special raising claims can be applied in different markets.”

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