News wrap-up: Transformation is here to stay


Sir Peter Gluckman says synthetic milk is the biggest threat to NZ.

We’ve summarised some of the major stories and themes recently featured in media to get a sense of what’s on the radar in 2018. These topics will be discussed during a number of NZAFW events this year, be sure to register and buy tickets for the events.

Former Federated Farmers president William Rolleston recently told RNZ’s Outspoken programme that there’s a fundamental problem between what farmers are doing and what the public thinks farmers are doing.

He believes agriculture has been slow to tell the market and consumers the story of contemporary food production in New Zealand and to share the many positive stories around environmental responsibility.

Auckland Federated Farmers president Andrew Maclean expressed similar views in a Farmers Weekly article, saying the way farming has been portrayed is inaccurate and unfair, and respect for those in the primary sector is being challenged.

“Transformation is here to stay and our primary sector has much to be proud of as demand for high-quality food and drink products continues to grow…But that doesn’t exclude us from the need to change and continually improve our management practices.”

Mr Maclean also acknowledged the increasing pressure consumers are putting on farmers and growers in terms of their expectations around how food is produced.

“There’s more scrutiny on the source of food and food safety and that’s escalated in a way no one could have predicted,” he said.

Alternative protein

Synthetic meat and milk have well and truly moved from futuristic circles to science, research and marketing spheres, in the past 12 months.

The Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, says synthetic milk is the biggest threat to New Zealand because of the country’s reliance on its “liquid gold” dairy exports.

“Eight years ago I was laughed at. Now I think the risk is real,” he told the NZBIO Annual Biotechnology/Life Sciences Conference in October, while estimating most milk sold worldwide in 20 to 25 years could be synthetic.

A Rabobank report titled, “Watch Out… or They Will Steal Your Growth!” released in November found alternative proteins are on the verge of becoming mainstream and “stealing” growth from traditional meat products.

Alternative proteins – including plant-based meat substitutes, emerging insect or algae-based products and lab-grown meat products – are starting to successfully compete for the “centre of the plate”, the report says.

The red meat industry is understandably keeping a close eye on developments of the synthetic food industry, with Beef + Lamb New Zealand announcing it was carrying out consumer research into alternative proteins.

“We are not seeing it as a replacement for now, but we are definitely seeing it as an alternative for certain types of consumers,” market innovation manager Damien Cullinan told The New Zealand Herald.

Traditional protein

Traditional protein sources had their share of the limelight, too. Butter continued its redemption with BePure founder and respected nutritionist Ben Warren sharing his belief butter is a good fat source while MasterChef Australia contestants created blue cheese ice-cream and goats’ cheese semifreddo.

New breed Te Mana Lamb won the Innovation in Food and Beverage category at the New Zealand Innovation Awards. It contains notable levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, providing an alternative to oily fish for the sought-after fat.

The importance of traditional protein sources continues to be espoused by weight loss companies such as Precision Nutrition and Weight Watchers.

Best gumboot forward

In December, Fonterra released its first sustainability report saying it is committed to supporting its farmers by investing significantly in the development of new technologies and solutions for water quality and on-farm emissions.

Industry organisation DairyNZ is also front-footing challenges facing farming. Chief executive Tim Mackle announced in December that the industry organisation is launching initiatives to generate positive coverage in a range of media spaces, from TV to social media.

Southland farm Bristol Grove Dairies is one of those taking up the challenge to tell farming stories with its family-focused, humorous and educational Facebook posts.

And talking of education – it’s just one month until the third annual NZ AgriFood Week, where sustainable farming methods will be celebrated in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards evening on Thursday March 15th.

Sustainability and environmental improvements will no doubt be discussed during Perspective 2025, where female leaders in agribusiness will address the question: “Is creativity the core element of transforming our food producers for the future?” Most events require registration or tickets, check out each event’s page for more information.

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