Small Batch Production Puts Sustainable Food Manufacturing on the Plate

By Maja Prica
Friday, 01 March, 2024

Small Batch Production Puts Sustainable Food Manufacturing on the Plate

The Australian Parliament’s House Standing Committee on Agriculture has taken the first step towards strengthening Australia’s food systems by releasing a report of sustainability recommendations after a year-long inquiry into food security.

The National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study reported that Australians create around 7.6 million tonnes of food waste each year which costs the country’s economy $36.6 billion annually. Additionally, with 2,600 gigalitres of water and 25 million hectares of land used to grow wasted food, it’s clear to see how the current food landscape is unsustainable in the long term.

Addressing Australia’s food waste is a complex challenge — one that concerns all parts of the supply chain, from paddock to plate. While it’s easy to place the responsibility on individuals and their actions, it’s no secret the most important step towards a sustainable food future needs to be taken by the government and relevant industries implementing systemic change.

The development of a National Food Plan was outlined by the Australian Food Story: Feeding the Nation and Beyond report, with an emphasis on improving food production processes. With Australia producing substantially more food than its population consumes, it’s safe to say that there’s plenty of room for food manufacturers to start prioritising quality over quantity. That’s where small-batch production comes in.

As the name suggests, small-batch food production is about producing smaller quantities of a product at one time. This means producers have greater control over the quality of their product, require fewer production resources compared to mass manufacturers, and produce less waste as a result. So when it comes to sustainability, small-batch producers are ahead of the game.

Robert Hall, founder of The Original Beef Chief, has been at the forefront of small-batch production since the inception of the beef jerky brand in 2018. His beginnings as an Australian Army infantryman saw him experimenting with different marinades, cooking times, and techniques after being unimpressed by the quality of the mass-manufactured jerky provided in the army sustenance packs. When he started his business years later, there were no two ways about it — he would focus on small-batch production with the promise of 100% Australian-made.

Hall takes pride in his promise to provide authentic beef jerky made from grass-fed Australian cattle. He relies purely on Australian suppliers, with nothing being imported, and champions supporting local at every turn. Nothing goes to waste in the production process either. “We use every part of the beef. Normally what happens is once the fat is trimmed it’s thrown out. What we do is use it by mixing it in our droewors,” Hall says.

When considering the future of food production, Hall said: “You’ll never get rid of mass production completely. That’s not possible. But there needs to be government support to promote and market small-batch producers to get them at the front of consumers’ minds.”

The future of food manufacturing depends on a shift like this; moving away from mass manufacturing where possible and supporting small-batch producers who emphasise premium ingredients and sustainable practices.

The path to prioritising small-batch production of food won’t be an easy one, but it’s time we start savouring the flavour of sustainability, and to do that we need to start taking steps towards implementing systemic change, with the report and its recommendations providing a solid place to begin.

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