Exports of human heart valve replacements are the latest casualty of Australia’s labor shortage, with a Queensland meat processor unable to fill all of its vital orders for the beef by-product.
- Labor shortages have impacted Nolan Meats’ ability to export vital beef by-products
- The Gympie company transports cleaned cow heart sacs to the United States daily for artificial heart valves
- Now 150 workers are missing
Nolan Meats is one of many accredited Australian companies to supply bovine pericardium tissue to manufacturers of medical products in the United States.
The fat attached to a cow’s heart sac must be carefully removed to ensure the delicate tissue is not damaged, before it is carefully cleaned, packaged and airlifted to California.
“We send this out every night and it goes over to the States and they make heart valves to transplant back into humans, so you’re actually saving human lives by collecting this product,” director Terry Nolan said.
“But some days you don’t collect them, because you don’t have the people to collect them.”
Mr Nolan said his family’s meat factory was operating with two-thirds of the workers it needed, and despite paying higher wages than granted, their factory in Gympie had 150 vacancies to fill.
He despaired of having to waste parts of the animals they had bred and bred, simply because they didn’t have enough staff.
ABC Rural has contacted the Australian Medical Association and Prince Charles Hospital to ask if there is an impact on surgeons’ ability to procure transcatheter aortic valve (TAVI) implantations, which are made from the heart sacs of the cow.
Artificial valves have saved the lives of heart patients with aortic stenosis, who suffer from narrowing of the opening of the aortic valve, due to calcium or cholesterol buildup.
Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said that, like many industries, meat retailers, processors and small produce makers were struggling with labor shortages. paralyzing works.
“If you look at our supply chain, from the time the truck leaves the sales yard, the feedlot or the farm, we’re about 10,000 people short – all the way to red meat processing and pork, cold storage, logistics, wholesale, value addition, supermarket prep, butchers and small-products manufacturing,” Mr. Hutchinson said.
“People think we’re out there scamming people trying to sell Wagyu minced meat. That’s not our point.
“We waste absolutely nothing. It’s not just meat, but also medical components, cosmetics, food ingredients, clothing and sustainable energy.”
Mr Nolan said his family had worked hard to establish themselves in often hard-to-reach foreign markets, and their ability to supply beef intestines, a delicacy in some Asian markets, had also been affected.
“It’s pretty disheartening when you see a valuable product that’s just going to be returned because you don’t have the people there to process it,” he said.
Before the pandemic, Mr. Nolan said they liked working with between 500 and 550 workers.
He said cowhide prices also fell from around $78 to $8-10 due to labor shortages around the world.
“When you don’t have that revenue contribution, then of course meat prices have to go up to cover it.
“We don’t want to see beef prices go up. It would be our desire to try to make beef prices cheaper for the consumer, to promote more consumption.”
To improve its prospects of attracting and retaining workers, Nolan Meats has purchased five houses near its meat processing plant, applied for housing development with Gympie Town Council and is considering other housing options for its staff.
This week, the company registered with the Pacific Labor Mobility Scheme (PALM) to try to fill vacancies.
“We’ve always paid above awarded wages, and no matter how much you pay, some people don’t want to do this job,” Mr. Nolan said.
Mr Hutchinson said the industry is ‘struggling’ to kill six million cattle a year and with better seasons the number of cattle, sheep and goats is expected to increase by up to 30% over the of the next few years.
“It’s a vicious cycle. All of this will be for nothing if we don’t have the capacity to deal with it. We need people, if we could wave a magic wand we would have 10,000 more people,” said he declared.
“We need skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled people now.
“What we want is an international workforce program that fills the gaps along the supply chain and provides protections for workers, provides pathways to permanent residency which, in turn , provides positive benefits to regional communities.”
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