This is good. So what else have you got to show us, agri-business?

by | May 26, 2022 | Opinion

Some good news for a change.

Seeing the Prime Minister launch Net Carbon Zero by Nature beef in the US this week is pleasing. It’s a moment worth remembering – and not just because after so long being the hermit kingdom we are finally making a splash in the Big Apple.

New York City! Go us.

The more pleasing thing is to see the leadership taken by Silver Fern Farms, our largest red meat exporter. The Prime Minister is right when she says, “the Net Carbon Zero Beef represents both New Zealand values but also our aspirations when it comes to climate change. Rather than this product being the exception, it will increasingly be the rule. It’s great to see Silver Fern Farms leading the charge in that regard.”

The trajectory for agriculture is only in one direction: it will be carbon positive, radically transparent, have higher standards of animal welfare and labour practices, and be increasingly regenerative. The question is not if this is the future – it’s how fast can it get there.

We know this is true because it’s the only logical outcome of two entirely predictable revolutions.

The first is climate change. In three days’ time, He Waka Eke Noa will report to Ministers Shaw and O’Connor to show how ag will meet its emissions targets. There’s lots of huffing about the size of those targets and the speed to get there, but it’s clear they will happen – or else.

If it’s not the government demanding it, consumers will. The evidence from consumer research is clear, that sustainability is a driver of premium value, which is where we want New Zealand to play, right? Value over volume is the right strategy for a tiny country that desperately wants to improve its environmental performance. We want greater returns from a lower footprint.

Cultural revolution

This is especially relevant given the second revolution: the steady march of cultured protein into commercial-scale production. This week, US company Good Meat announced funding to build the world’s largest bioreactors to produce cultivated meat, with the potential to supply tens of thousands of shops and restaurants. Experts said the move could be a “gamechanger” for the nascent industry.

Good Meat said the bioreactors would grow more than 13,000 tonnes of chicken and beef a year. It will use cells taken from cell banks or eggs, so the meat will not require the slaughter of any livestock.

Cultivated meat is at the point of the Model T Ford. And the ag sector is the horse and cart. Futurist Tony Seba reckons ag has 10 years before the cow is disrupted, as digital has done to all things analogue. Maybe he’s wrong about the speed but the logic is correct: manufactured protein will be faster, cheaper, have a lower footprint and be indistinguishable from meat as an ingredient. Expect to see patties, mince, curries, pies and stews to be powered by cultured meat in the next decade.

Go high

But while they go low, New Zealand ag can go high. In the same week of Silver Fern Farms’ launch, Hawkes Bay-based Matangi Angus Beef has claimed that its radically low-stress approach to managing herds produces a higher quality beef – with a coveted marbling score of 6 this season.

“Marbling scores are expertly graded by an independent, qualified assessor, who bases the score on the rib eye muscle of each animal. Only a happy animal will eat consistently, so this and a nutritional diet will help produce those intramuscular fats,” says Farm manager Jamie Gaddum.

That feels right to me and the only logical path for an industry under pressure from below and above.

Well done Silver Fern Farms. Now, what else you got?


Stress-Free, Chilled Herds Resulting in World-Class Beef


Hawke’s Bay 24 May 2022 – Minimising stress and a slow farming ethos are resulting in the production of world-class beef, achieving spectacular ‘marble scores’ on par with some of the world’s most sought-after Wagyu beef, and it’s all done in the heart of the Hawkes Bay.

Most beef cattle raised in New Zealand experience a range of stress factors each day – everything from loud farm dogs to restricted feeding. Farming ethically, Matangi Angus Beef goes against the grain, reducing stress on its herd at every touchpoint. This careful approach produces beef sought after for its buttery, exquisite taste and texture that melts at the touch of a knife. It’s seen the farm achieve a coveted marbling score of 6 this season, with its beef sought after and served up by top chefs and food connoisseurs across the country.

Farm manager Jamie Gaddum says the marbling score in beef is measured by the degree of visible intramuscular fat found within the meat and is directly related to the conditions experienced by stock, including stress.

“Marbling scores are expertly graded by an independent, qualified assessor, who bases the score on the rib eye muscle of each animal. Only a happy animal will eat consistently, so this and a nutritional diet will help produce those intramuscular fats,” he says.

Matangi’s stress reduction approach eliminates most common stress causes – extended trucking, changing environments, restricting feed, mixing cattle mobs up and using loud farm dogs.

“Stress produces lactic acid in the meat from the breakdown of glycogen, resulting in beef with a lower pH level, lighter colour, reduced water-binding capacity, and it’s tougher to eat. We’ve achieved pH levels consistently between 5.7 and 5.9 – which is considered optimum for the highest quality meats. We also feel good knowing we are providing our herd with the best conditions on-farm and the most stress-free life possible,” he says

Fast becoming known as the producer of NZ’s best Angus beef, Matangi takes a bespoke and highly ethical approach to farming, working with a carefully selected, small, closed herd selected for its top-notch genetics that spends its entire life cycle on the property. The farm is environmentally managed to optimise soil and water quality and protect the land. The beef cattle are treated respectfully, and stress is minimised at every point – epitomising the concept of free-range and grass-fed only.

“Everything we do, we have our consumer in mind, and I often think when doing a task on the farm that if one of our restaurant’s customers was to see me now, would I still do it this way? I make sure the answer is always yes. The wellbeing of our animals is paramount, and happy animals produce high-quality meat, so it’s a win-win,” Jamie says.

With consumers becoming more aware of where their food comes from, Matangi hopes to see the emergence of more boutique producers that focus on quality and more farms adopting highly ethical and sustainable practices throughout the sector, Jamie says.

About Matangi Angus Beef:

Matangi Angus Beef is bred with purpose, grown with patience, and crafted with precision, exclusively for the NZ market. It has a bespoke and ethical approach to farming, working with a carefully selected, small, closed herd and farming land that is sustainably optimised for the best soil and water quality, ensuring it maintains and improves the future environment, to obtain the best quality meat.

Matangi works with an exclusive master butcher to create premium cuts before providing them directly, seasonally and exclusively to conscientious and discerning NZ customers. They do this because they believe in farming ethically, feeling good about what they do, and because Kiwis have a right to taste the absolute best New Zealand pastures can produce – small-batch, seasonal, premium beef.

To find out more, visit


About the Author

Vincent Heeringa

Hi, I'm Vincent! I'm a co-founder of The Feed, a writer, marketer and PR expert specialising in food, tech and sustainability. In a previous life I was publisher of Idealog, Stoppress, NZ Marketing and Good magazines and helped establish the Science Media Centre. I'm also the host of a podcast ‘This Climate Business’. When I'm not burning the midnight oil, I'm hitting the town or planting trees with my wife Sarah. Ping me to talk about all things food. @vheeringa

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