TEAM: Graeme Acton Beef Connections program participants Richard Rains and Bede Mcalpin.
TEAM: Graeme Acton Beef Connections program participants Richard Rains and Bede Mcalpin. Andrea Davy

Mentors help bright young minds cut to the chase

BACK to basics, with butcher's paper and coloured markers, some of the beef industry's brightest minds penned their biggest ideas.

Bede Mcalpin, a 25-year-old sales and production co-ordinator for Arcadian Organic and Natural Meat, was among the group, crafting his idea about creating better branding systems for red meat.

The project is part of Beef Week Australia's 2018 Graeme Acton Beef Connections mentor program, an initiative that pairs an up-and-comer with an industry expert.

So while Bede talked through methods of how building brand integrity can generate added value through supply chain mechanisms, by his side was retiree Richard Rains - a man who dedicated 40 years to marketing beef internationally.

Although they have a 27-year age gap, and Bede is based in Toowoomba and Richard in Sydney, the pair share a determination for the project.

"There is definitely a market for building value in brands,” Bede said.

"For example, when people buy an iPhone, they are not paying for the cost of producing the iPhone, they are paying for the Apple sticker on the back of it.”

Richard agrees.

"I am a great fan of the MLA (Meat and Livestock Australia) and what they do... they are charged with the responsibility of spending producer levees to market meat generically,” he said.

"But I don't know anything else that is marketed generically, other than probably fruit and vegetables.

"There is no beer company just promoting beer - it is XXXX or Tooheys promoting their own brands.

"As Australia is the most expensive processor of beef in the world, for us to be able to attract a worthwhile premium, we need to have an organic (brand), or a natural, or a grass-fed - we have to have brands that have a point of difference that encourage the consumer to pay the premium.”

Bede believes sharing the producer's story could create a "pull-through” effect, where customers will start to demand certain brands are sold within their supermarket aisles.

"There is definitely value in the Australian story - that the farmer is a battler and he has built a legacy - that can be expanded on and the consumer will buy into that story.”

While Bede's audacious goal sounds relatively simple on paper, there is clearly a long road ahead of him.

This is where mentor Richard steps in.

"After having done this for 40 years, hopefully, I have connections and a little knowledge to help Bede, or show him how to cut corners and cut to the chase,” he said.

"The industry was very kind to me so I love the opportunity to give a little bit back.”

Feedlot manager Amanda Moohen and CQ farmer Kaye Wilson were part of the first Beef Week mentoring program.
Feedlot manager Amanda Moohen and CQ farmer Kaye Wilson were part of the first Beef Week mentoring program.


FEEDLOT manager Amanda Moohen had a goal to make networking within her industry easier.

That was her 'fuzzy' idea within the inaugural Graeme Acton Beef Connections Mentor Program.

Then, with her mentor Kaye Wilson, who is from a mixed-enterprise property in central Queensland, Women of Lot Feeding was born.

The not-for profit group is now well known for hosting events that draw feedlot workers from around the Darling Downs, and further afar, together.

United, they offer support to newcomers in the industry and tackle the bigger issues like appropriate workplace policies for maternity leave.

"The mentor program has been the best thing for me personally and professionally,” Amanda said.

The pair are now good friends, despite only seeing each other face to face a handful of times.

"Kaye really helped me look at things rationally,” Amanda said.

"She brought things into perspective. This was such a large idea, and I was focused on the bigger picture, but together we broke it up into smaller tasks.”

Kaye said communication was key to their success.

"We talked twice weekly for a while, then we talked every two weeks and, respecting the fact Amanda had a massive job, we moved to emails,” she said.

While Kaye's role may have started as a guide to help navigate the not-for profit world, she ended up being Amanda's back-up and long-term supporter.

"I always tell people I started with a mentor but now I have my friend Kaye,” Amanda said.

Program facilitator Barbara Bishop.
Program facilitator Barbara Bishop. Andrea Davy


WHAT'S in a mentor?

According to Graeme Acton Beef Connections Mentor Program facilitator Barbara Bishop, it is someone emotionally detached from your development with a deep well of time and knowledge they are keen to share.

Ms Bishop, who is the owner of Capacity in People, said having a mentor in your life was critical.

"You need someone who has experience and who can think outside the box for you. They can't be emotionally involved in any way. They shouldn't be your boss, or supervisor or a family member, so ideally not your mum or dad,” she said.

"They are just someone who can rationally look at your development and give you their time, effort and energy.”

Talking to the different duos at the mentor workshop, it became clear Ms Bishop had a knack for matching people together.

"Matching is absolutely critical; if you don't get the matching right, the relationship won't work,” she said.

"So for the young people I have read their applications and I have spoken to them over the phone, probably a couple of times.

"We match initially on projects, then on personality. The mentors need to be someone who can relate to young people.”

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