An Interview With Patrick Hutchinson

In our interview with Patrick Hutchinson, CEO, AMIC, we discussed championing the safety, quality and integrity of red meat domestically and overseas; attracting and retaining the red meat workforce; and why red meat events are vital to connecting the industry with the community.  

RMAC: What was AMIC’s involvement in the initial Red Meat 2030 consultation process? 

PH: AMIC worked across a number of components, taking part in events across the six different priorities and putting forward a range of participants. 

We provided as much IP to the process as possible, sharing the issues we have and the expertise we hold to ensure the whole supply chain was recognised.

RMAC: Part of your role is to ensure the safety, quality and integrity of Australian red meat produce. What’s the most recent measure you’ve put into place, or project that’s underway to support this? 

PH: The big one would be the Meat Modernisation Program, which is in partnership  with the Federal Government. 

The project crosses a range of parameters around the regulations of the provision of hygienic meat. We want to streamline the process, so it’s not just about a way to save money, but also to utilise tech to make production of safe, high-quality meat more efficient. 

Through this program we’re looking at how we can carry out audits with international customers using tech. We want to provide the best service to international customers, without them having to come over to Australia in person. 

Overall, with the support of the Federal Agriculture Department and Minister, we’re carrying out a large amount of work to modernise the way meat regulation is implemented and executed by industry and government.

RMAC: Can you talk about AMIC’s partnership with Energy Australia and how that aligns with the Red Meat 2030 priority of ‘Our Environment’?

PH: The partnership is more from a retail perspective, to lower the cost of energy for our retailers. It’s also about working with an organisation who is committed to providing energy requirements to our membership, from a more renewable perspective. 

Together we’re looking at the better ways our members can use energy in a more sustainable way and a range of ways to reduce price, consumption and from a renewable source.

The Energy Australia team provides assistance and advice to AMIC members on a range of energy solutions, as we work towards being carbon neutral.

RMAC: We know that market access has never been more important for the industry. Which market access programs are currently underway and what do you foresee for the future in terms of international trade for Aussie red meat businesses? 

PH: AMIC has a big responsibility within the industry, with regards to market access. We know MLA leads in regards to economics market access, but a free trade agreement (FTA) is no good if the technical issues to support it aren’t there. 

AMIC’s role is to work on the technical market issues. We’re reactive and proactive on behalf of our members and also on behalf of the industry. 

We have developed specific trade groups that work on dedicated issues with regards to technical market access. Our responsibility is to run those groups and look at issues that may come out of these. 

These are very broad issues, but can be neatly defined in areas like religious standards, labeling or certification standards. A great FTA isn’t worth much if we aren’t meeting these requirements. What we do benefits all of the industry and increases their opportunities for market access – not just our members.

RMAC: Can you talk a bit about the programs that are underway to align with the ‘Our People’ Red Meat 2030 priority?

PH: AMIC is overseen by three strategic pillars, people, product and business. 

We take the ‘people’ pillar very seriously – without people we don’t have an industry, it’s all about engagement, recruitment and retention of the workforce.

It’s a complicated program to undertake, we need to work from high schools, through to TAFE and universities, to ensure we have the workforce we need to meet demand. 

We’re working on ways to engage with the long-term unemployed, to expand the pool nationally, rather than having to pull from the international workforce. Post COVID there’s no-one new coming in, so the ‘people’ programs we are running are even more important.

RMAC: You are planning some key events in 2021, including regional retail competitions. How do these events positively impact the red meat industry and communities? 

PH: We see all events, whether a community-based competition or industry-based networking, as vital. They connect all the different parts of our membership and provide a place for members to share updates, so we can see how the whole supply chain is traveling. 

The competitions encourage new ideas for domestic and export sales, it’s about getting an understanding of new issues and new advocacy that needs to be developed, to meet the requirements on an export level.

They foster a sense of community and bring people together, engaging the meat industry in the community and showcasing our industry to a wider audience. The events also invite young people to the industry through competitions, and promote the opportunities of red meat businesses as an innovative place to work. 

AMIC is the exclusive Australian Territory Partner for Meat Business Women, an international networking organisation for women in the meat industry. We hold two annual events for our members and wider industry, promoting a number of initiatives and mentoring programs to support the development of women into leadership roles.