Birds of a feather: new Chair and Deputy Chair of Chicken Meat Advisory Panel

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Sharing knowledge and supporting the next generation of Australia’s poultry industry is what drives Katherine Balding, Manager Nutrition and Feedmills at Baiada and Susy Klein, General Manager Primary Processing at Ingham’s Enterprises. The pair have known and worked alongside each other throughout their respective careers in the chicken meat industry, and have now been appointed Chair and Deputy Chair of AgriFutures Australia’s Chicken Meat Advisory Panel supporting industry led research and development for the sustainability of the industry.

SUSY KLEIN: Kath and I started in the poultry industry as young graduates at Ingham’s; Kath’s area was animal nutrition, while mine was food safety and quality. Between the two of us we have over 50 years’ experience in the sector, and we laugh that we are very much a part of the chicken family. We are both proud to be part of the chicken industry and have a sense of ownership of it; it really gets into your blood.

We’re both perfectionists, very detail oriented and conscious of supporting those around us, and because we have been “brought up” in the industry, we tend to think the same way from a technical perspective.

What I love about Kath is her honesty and her passion, and that absolutely inspires me, because she is so down to earth and genuine. I really admire her intelligence, and her ability to be able to think out of the box.

Scientifically we complement each other, Kath’s a nutritionist, I’m a microbiologist. Kath is very blue sky, whereas sometimes I can be quite the opposite. That approach – moving things forward, having blue sky goals, along with targets that are more tangible and achievable – means we work really well together.

We have been surrounded by passionate people throughout our careers, and we have been fortunate to have very stable, secure, interesting and rewarding careers. We like sharing our knowledge and help nurture and develop people with the same kind of passion for the industry.

We want to bring through that next generation of Australian poultry industry scientists and people who have the knowledge and the desire to be in the industry; we are very passionate about who’s coming, and that they feel the same way about the industry. We need a good balance of people who are hands on and practical, who are smart, intelligent, hardworking, get out there and just get it done, people who want to stay in the industry.

The poultry industry is scientific, dynamic, stimulating and busy, and because it is fully integrated, it gives you a holistic view of an agricultural industry. The integrated nature of the industry means that any research and development that we do is critical because it influences so many different parts of the industry; nutrition research in meat chickens has an effect on processing, and eventually the customer and consumer. We have a real opportunity in the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program to significantly impact the whole industry.

KATHERINE BALDING: I am very passionate about all aspects of poultry production. It is a fascinating industry. I love the science, the economics, animal health and welfare. When I was studying, I was focused on human nutrition. However, it was not until I graduated that I realised how I wanted to be in agricultural food production and poultry was the most interesting growth opportunity. The poultry industry attracts wonderful people who make a lifelong career as a result for their love of poultry production. It is a diverse industry providing many career paths and services. In the 28 years I have been in the industry there is no day the same. There are always new challenges and opportunities to improve our sustainability, production efficiencies and bird welfare.

Susy and my career journey have almost been a mirror image, but with different specialties. We both started at Ingham’s in the same year as fresh graduates. For nearly 20 years we were mentored by two very senior bosses who were held in high regard internationally. Susy was mentored by Dr Margaret McKenzie, and I was mentored by Dr Ron McAlpine. The mentoring aspect of our careers has been important both scientifically and as role models. This work and business ethic provided by Margaret and Ron has contributed to our desire to work hard and get things done. Both Susy and I want to provide this same opportunity to our staff and colleagues.

We complement each other because we are so similar, but also because we have unique skill sets and experiences that we can bring to the table. We’ve been able to teach each other about the whole supply chain, starting with quality assurance, ingredient procurement, feed milling, buying, breeding, growing, processing, food safety, marketing product and servicing food retail and dealing with the consumer’s needs.

Australia is unique when compared to other countries poultry production. We are a very large island with diverse climate and feed ingredients available which we are constantly analysing. Our biosecurity is paramount to protect our industry from exotic disease which also plays a role in our genetic lines and breeds. Research is critical to understanding the Australian market, how to feed the birds to achieve optimum bird health and welfare, while also understanding the consumer needs. Research is how we learn to do things better and support consumer needs. We must understand the now and look to the future, finding solutions that positively impact the whole industry.

I think we can collaborate more with other levy paying industries within the AgriFutures portfolio; we often face similar hurdles and can share ideas that may add value across industries. That’s the value of being part of AgriFutures. For Susy and I, we want to make sure that when we’re representing the industry, all levy payers have access to insights and tools to make their business better.

The AgriFutures Chicken Meat Advisory Panel is also very committed to mentoring young people. I’m very passionate about encouraging younger people to join the industry and offer them the same journey as I have had, because it’s been a really fulfilling career.

The poultry industry is a growth industry with exciting career opportunities for anybody wanting a career in agricultural food production.

AgriFutures Australia is committed to working with the levied industries we serve to deliver research and development outcomes to grow the long-term prosperity of these industries. We work closely with Advisory Panels in our larger levied industries to identify research priorities and make Program investments.

 If you are interested in applying for a position on an AgriFutures Australia Advisory Panel please submit an EOI to be notified about upcoming opportunities.

 For more information on the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program go to: agrifutures.com.au/chicken-meat/

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