NZ agri innovation helping meat exports to Asia’s diverse markets

Greenlea Premier Meats managing director Tony Egan says the Asian market has a greater focus on it today than the United ...
STEPHEN BARKER/FAIRFAX NZ/Greenlea Premier Meats managing director Tony Egan
 By Anuji Nadkarni for stuff

New Zealand’s agricultural innovation is helping businesses in the meat industry flourish in Asia’s diverse market.

Greenlea’s managing director Tony Egan said halal meat exports to Asia’s large muslim populations has been made possible by electrical stunning of animals before slaughter.

Electrical stunning was pioneered in New Zealand. The method desensitises the animal, making it an acceptable compromise to traditional halal practices.

“The meat industry in New Zealand has evolved from a very strong focus on the United States 20 years ago, to these days having a much broader range, now it’s certainly Asian business.

“New Zealand’s been able to demonstrate not just the integrity of our supply chain but also demonstrated our ability to comply with religious requirements from countries like Indonesia and Malaysia and that has given us real opportunity to grow our market in those countries,” Egan said.

Ninety per cent of Greenlea's meat products are exported to Asia, Europe and the United States.

Greenlea has had a presence in Asia since 1993, but the region became a major focus only recently, exporting high quality cuts of beef and offal products to Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Korea.

Egan said focusing on Asia has enabled the Waikato-based company to export a wider range of cow and bull cuts that are not routinely eaten in New Zealand and are more suitable for Asian cuisines.

“What Asia offers is a whole variety of product options that are less associated with grinding meat or grinding products and more associated with specific cuts.

“Take the shank meat for instance. It used to be a grinding meat item there’s now four different muscles we save in the shank.

“We’ve gotten much more specific in our understanding of muscle groups and their specific use in a cuisine or culture within a market.”

Egan said one of the key factors apart from our clean and green image that makes exports from New Zealand desirable, is the integrity of our supply chains.

“They know there’s very strong checks and balances in our processes. If something is labelled and packaged in New Zealand they can be comfortable with buying our products and feeding their families.

“We’ve tapped into that desire for certainty and confidence in their food supply and that’s a big factor in parts of Asia,” Egan said.

Greenlea is growing its overseas presence studying how countries are evolving.

The company has recently started exporting to one of Asia’s fastest developing economies, Myanmar.

“We’re constantly looking at countries as they evolve, we’re always on the lookout. While there’s a lot of talk about China we also keep an eye out for other countries,” Egan said.

While tariff restraints make trading in many parts of Asia harder, Greenlea has been working with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to try and break down those barriers.

 – Stuff