Sold on sustainability
Overseas consumers are now the biggest food regulators in the world for primary exporters, Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper says.
These consumers would not buy products they considered to be unethically produced, he told deer farmers at a field day at Peel Forest Estate near Geraldine on Thursday.
Not doing the right thing could potentially compromise deer farmers' ability to get into markets.
Farmers should not expect to get a premium for being ethical. This would provide them only with market access, he said.
"The challenge for us is that the customer won't pay more for that because that's what they expect, that we would do as good farmers and as good corporate citizens.
"Doing the right thing is just what we have to do, we shouldn't always expect a premium. The premium is inherent in the fact that consumers are buying the product in the first place."
He said he wished he could have shown Peel Forest Estate to his overseas customers so they could understand its sustainability story.
"This is the stuff they love and this is why they want to pay more for your product," he said.
The day was being held in recognition of the farm's achievements in environmental sustainability.
Peel Forest Estate won the livestock section award at the 2010 Canterbury Farm Environment Awards. That same year, it was recognised by Deer Industry New Zealand by winning the environmental award for Total Commitment to Sustainability.
Consumers loved stories about sustainability, Mr Cooper said.
"It's important to us as a country but, equally, it's important for consumers to understand that we are caring for the environment and how we are going about our farming practices and how we are changing our farming practices."
The challenge for meat exporters was telling that story to consumers on the other side of the world.
"We need to drag more customers and consumers over here to see it for themselves. It's incredibly important for us as we build the story behind your product that there is something more than just the meat, it's the whole production process."
- © Fairfax NZ News