Co-development with supply chain participants

Silver Fern Farm’s Eating Quality System® – an example of ‘co-development with supply chain participants’.

In 2014, Silver Fern Farms implemented its Eating Quality System®. Their Beef EQ grading system rates beef on 7 criteria statistically proven to contribute to the eating quality of beef and is based on an extensive scientific investigation involving more than 13,000 taste testers. It allows Silver Fern Farms to make consumer promises of beef that consistently meets the highest standards of taste, tenderness and juiciness.

Grading meat

Now Silver Fern Farms is working with their farmer suppliers and other processing staff (eg. farm reps) involved in the supply chain to increase the number of animals that meet this grade, as well as supplying animals at this grade at times of year that are generally considered difficult.

Silver Fern Farms have been using a ‘co-development with supply chain participants’ extension approach, including extension activities such as:

  • An extensive, two-year scientific testing process with consumers in NZ and the United States to establish taste, tenderness and juiciness preferences and expectations
  • Establishment of a computer database which compares taste preferences from consumers with data from beef animals.
  • Developing tools, such as colour reference standards, for assessing criteria such as meat colour and fat colour
  • Developing specific accredited training (and ongoing re-testing every 8 weeks) to ensure certified Master Graders can conduct consistent and accurate grading according to the established standards
  • Producing videos and web materials that explain to all members along the supply chain how the grading process works, and what it means for them
  • Developing TV advertisements and press releases that promote the ‘EQ Master Grade’ stamp to consumers
  • Planning additional extension activities (eg. workshops, farmer-focussed fact sheets, and eNewsletters) to inform farmers and share knowledge about how to increase Beef EQ hit rates
  • Planning additional extension activities for Silver Fern Farm staff to upskill their ability to share a consistent story about producing quality beef and how this relates to eating quality (eg. plant visits by graders, workshops and focus groups for farm reps).

‘Co-development with farmers, advisors and science’ as an extension approach worked well in this situation because:

  • Producing and delivering premiere quality beef to consumers for extended periods of time is a complex issue that impacts on and requires practice and/or behaviour changes from multiple participants (typically all) along the supply chain
  • The benefits of selecting for certain criteria such as meat colour are clear to some stakeholders (eg. consumers) but may not be immediately observable to others (eg. farmers) 
  • New knowledge was being generated from collaboration between multiple stakeholders (farmers, Silver Fern Farms, scientists and advisors)
  • Participants right along the supply chain needed to be included in this kind of practice development so a solution that meets the different needs of all stakeholders can be identified and successfully implemented.