Greenlea Premier Meats Export Trial

August 2017

A chilled meat export trial to China is underway at Greenlea Meats

New Zealand and China have agreed to a six-month trial of chilled meat exports and Greenlea Premier Meats is one of ten meat processors involved in the opening up of chilled meat market into China. 

Greenlea is a family owned and operated meat processor exporting beef to our domestic market and around the world. It operates two Waikato based plants, the first plant was built on the outskirts of Hamilton in 1993 and the second Morrinsville plant was purchased in 1997. 

Greenlea has built a reputation on innovation and their focus has been value added products to increase returns. With a regular presence on the international scene at industry summits such as the USA based Future Food Tech Summit, Greenlea is able to anticipate market changes. They see the rise of ‘alternative protein’ and increased regulation and consumer concern around environment and sustainability issues as an indicator that they need to increase value as opposed to increasing the amount of product they process. 

This will require significant investment in infrastructure for their processing plants. For example, in the past, they were among the first to install a hot boning system (refers to the removal of bones prior to chilling) and a state-of-the-art blast tunnel freezing system. 

Their recent investment has been a new ‘value added room’ and the purchase of a multi-functional thermaformer packaging system. The value added room allows them to prepare diced, minced, strip cut for stir-fry and regular cuts such as steaks for vacuum packaging. The thermaformer technology incorporates labeling, so text can be changed for each run and can be done at the same time as the vacuum packaging. 

This technology has enabled the company to sell retail packaged meats – for example 2 steaks in a vacuum pack. They’ve been supplying the domestic market - Farro Fresh and Moore Wilsons – for a couple of years now.

Internationally, Greenlea has had a presence in Asia since 1993, but China has become a major focus only recently. They’re exporting high quality cuts of beef and offal products to Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, China,Korea and others. They are presently exporting 100% of the chilled meat from NZ into Vietnam.

The NZ humane innovations in halal approved meat, were adopted by Greenlea and it has opened up the markets in Indonesia and Malaysia. The stunning method means that the animal is unconscious and doesn’t experience any pain when slaughtered.

Focusing on Asia has enabled the Waikato-based company to export a wider range of cow and bull cuts that are not routinely eaten in New Zealand and are more suitable for Asian cuisines (examples being tripe and tendons). The markets also have a preference for lean bull beef.

To date all meat exports into the Chinese market from New Zealand have been frozen. The push for fresh exports to China is opening up the value added market that Greenlea is keen to pursue. Fresh exports offer a better price – in some cases up to 50% on frozen meats. This enables Greenlea to pay their farmers a competitive return on their beasts.

As one of the 10 companies selected to trial fresh meat exports into China, Greenlea had to show that they had established distribution networks in China. 

In the trial, New Zealand is seeking to show that product can be safely sold, shipped and distributed within China. Chinese regulations require fresh meat to be chilled between +1 -+4 degrees Celsius. New Zealand’s stringent requirements for a temperature between -1 - +1 degrees Celsius means we’ll already be within target. 

Greenlea has been exporting frozen beef to China since 2014. Prior to this agreement, they were predominantly shipping wholesale bulk packages for further processing in China. They have strong relationships with a number of distribution companies in China. 

China has also been a key market for offal and such cuts that aren’t utilised here in NZ. 

Greenlea’s relationship with their Chinese distributers has been built over several years of face-to-face meetings, both in China and through visits to the plants by their customers. Greenlea point out that as cooking and cultures are very different from the NZ domestic market, regular visits are important to understand the company – and Asia’s - changing needs. 

It was when the supermarket distributer had a contingent on a reciprocal visit to New Zealand that they became interested in the retail ready packs that Greenlea were supplying to our domestic market via Farro Fresh and Moore Wilson. 

Chinese consumers have concerns in regards to food safety and the integrity of the meat sold (i.e. that the end product is the exact product stated). With our high food safety standards and reputation as a quality supplier of integrity products the pre-packaging was sought as an opportunity to supply the Chinese consumer a further guarantee of product integrity. 

The recent first fresh meat shipment included a selection of retail ready packed cuts; steaks, minced, diced and strip beef packages. The products have been packaged with Chinese labels and in one case they have developed a dual branded product with a supplier there. 

The fresh meat is vacuumed packed for export with no additional gas flushing. The shelf life for large cuts is 114 days in the vacuum pack. 

While hopes for the continued opening up of the fresh meat market remain positive, Greenlea is not resting there. 

Later this year consumers across New Zealand will be able to purchase from a soon to launch e-retail site for Greenlea Meats.