Materiality assessment of Australia’s chicken meat industry identifies priorities for future investment

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A comprehensive assessment of the priority areas for Australia’s chicken meat industry has provided crucial input to the development of the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program RD&E Plan for the next five years. The results of the assessment highlighted the increasing importance of food safety, animal welfare and food security to industry participants and stakeholders alike.

During June 2022, a diverse range of industry stakeholders responded to a materiality assessment survey, designed to help inform and support the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program’s focus and delivery on key objectives.

Alan Dayeh, Managing Principal of sustainability services firm, Point Advisory, led the materiality assessment process with key input from the Australian Chicken Meat Federation.

“A materiality assessment provides a systematic means to determine what topics (issues and opportunities) are most important to an industry and its stakeholders,” he said.

“The approach aims to identify any existing or potential economic, environmental and social impacts on the industry, identifies priority areas for action and informs public-facing communications, including investor information.”

The materiality assessment incorporated findings from a range of research as well as perspectives from industry stakeholders, including those operating in the chicken meat value chain, and industry trends both regionally and globally.

“To determine the ‘material topics’ applicable to the chicken meat industry we considered the significance or impact of the topic for the industry and the influence of the topic on stakeholder decision-making,” Alan said.

The results of the assessment revealed that most ‘material’ topics facing the Australian chicken meat industry are food safety and animal welfare, followed by food security, biosecurity, climate change and health, safety and wellbeing.

These results reinforced the need to continue to prioritise the wellbeing of chickens raised for meat production, throughout their life cycle, and to ensure chicken meat remains safe for Australian consumers. They also highlighted the importance of topics related to food security, cost of living and the stability of prices and supply chains.

The industry plays a crucial role in feeding Australians. Australians currently consume on average 49 kilos of chicken meat each year, equating to roughly twice as much chicken then beef and pork, and six times more than lamb Maintaining this stability and security will be important for the industry’s sustainability into the future.

Assessment results drives future industry research development and extension efforts

The AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program’s purpose is to invest in RD&E to foster an innovative, adaptive and valuable chicken meat industry in Australia.

Katherine Balding, Chair of the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program Advisory Panel, said the results of the assessment were integral in informing the short and long-term strategies, objectives and key performance indicators of the Program.

The AgriFutures Chicken Meat RD&E Plan (2022-2027) has undergone extensive industry consultation and is due to be released soon.

“Its vision is to grow the long-term prosperity of the Australian chicken meat industry,” Katherine said.

“The top five priorities for the industry were identified through analysing and combining individual stakeholder rankings on priority topics,” she said.

“We reflected on this aggregated list of priority topics as we developed the new RD&E Plan, which aims to protect the longevity of the industry in Australia.”

The Australian chicken meat industry contributes $7.9 billion to the Australian economy and sustains 58,000 jobs across the country. The industry has grown consistently at 4% per annum during the past three decades.

“The industry plays a particularly significant role in supporting employment and economic output across Australia’s regional and rural communities,” Katherine said.

For Katherine, one of the highlights arising from the study was the importance of food security to survey respondents.

“We wouldn’t have expected to see food security as one of the highest material topics five years ago — we believe this is a direct response to COVID-19,” Katherine said.

“The industry has a relatively low carbon footprint and provides an affordable, nutritional and locally grown source of protein for Australian consumers.”

Research Manager of AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program, Annie Lane noted the importance of the materiality assessment.

“A range of livestock industries have carried out, or are in the process of carrying out, materiality assessments,” she explained.

“It is important to capture the key elements of what industry sustainability means to our industry stakeholders.”

“Stakeholders are increasingly interested in sustainability strategies and actions of businesses and industries, and in seeing the topics that inform these strategies.”

Katherine noted that the relatively high scores for topics relating to the environment, such as climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience, feedstock and sustainable packaging were also noteworthy.

“Not only do the results help drive the plan for the industry and guide research investment, but they also help develop a ‘scorecard’ that allows us to communicate back to stakeholders on issues that are important to them,” Katherine said.

“These results will prove vital in developing a comprehensive scorecard that allows us to build confidence and trust across the breadth of our stakeholder relationships.”

The full materiality assessment report can be read here.

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