News

Beef Australia a global drawcard and local hero for Australia

Published 29 April 2024

Media Release

When the fireworks showered over Rockhampton to celebrate the beef industry in Australia’s Bicentennial year, Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister, Telecom was selling its brick-like Walkabout mobile for $5,200, and Triple J had announced its first Hottest 100 countdown.

Fast forward 35 years and 12 Beef events later Beef Australia is now the largest event, financially and physically, ever held in regional Australia (as of 2021), and a major drawcard for both local and international visitors.

Attracting more than 115,000 people, Beef 2021 generated $94 million for the Rockhampton region and injected another $55.5 million into the Queensland economy, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beef2024 is now set to build on this momentum, with more than 115,000 gate entries expected at this year’s event.

Beef Australia CEO, Simon Irwin, said Beef2024 would build on the momentum that has grown over the past three decades.

“Since 1988, this event has grown to become the premier showcase of the Australian beef industry that draws attention not just here but across the globe,” Mr Irwin said.

“It’s also a demonstration that remarkable events can be staged in the regions, and we’re proud to have partnered with the Rockhampton community to grow and improve each event.”

More than 350 exhibitors from across Australia will bring 1,550 stud cattle to Rockhampton in 2024, plus 75 steers, while in the commercial section 1,778 head will vie for titles at Central Queensland Livestock Exchange (CQLX).

Beef2024 will attract more than 420 registered international guests, while 3,840 school-aged children will participate in youth-focused programs.

Of course, beef will be the star of Beef2024’s dining options, with 34 food vendors and 10 celebrity chefs serving up Australia’s best.

A look back over 35 years.

It’s a little-known fact that the original event, Beef 88, was planned as a one-off to be held in Brisbane, which had its own coming of age that year as the host of World Expo 88, attracting more than 18 million visitors over six months.

But the Bicentennial beef celebrations were diverted to Rockhampton, due to its excellent facilities, experienced organisers, and the fact that more than a third of Queensland’s nine million beef cattle grazed within a 400km radius of the city.

The inaugural event attracted 1,400 entries in the Stud Beef Cattle Show and 2,000 head at Gracemere for the Prime Cattle Show and Sale. A trade show was put together by committee member and then Department of Primary Industries Beef Husbandry Officer, Ken Murphy who remembers walking the streets of Rockhampton lobbying local businesses to take part.

International visitors were attracted by Beef 88 and have grown for each subsequent Expo. The Sultan of Oman watched the stud cattle parade and then visited the local Fitzroy Nurseries, where he bought a million dollars worth of fruit trees.

In fact, Beef 88 was so successful that at a feedback meeting shortly afterwards, organisers decided to hold another event three years later, in 1991. The core group of Ken Coombe, Maurice Binstead, John Croaker, Ken Murphy, Keith McCamley and Lady Shirley McCamley would never have envisaged the huge event that it has become today.

As well as the regular stud and prime cattle shows, property tours and entertainment, the event programs have broadened to feature technology, conferences, feature appearances by celebrity chefs, media stars and athletes, campdrafting and art competitions.

Highlights of the 12 Beef Expos held since 1988 include:

  • An opening ceremony included live cattle on stage at Rockhampton’s Pilbeam Theatre, along with street parades to celebrate the event.
  • Beef 91 was opened by Australian Business Woman of the Year, Sara Henderson of Bulloo River Station, 450km west of Katherine, NT. Artist Hugh Sawrey judged 200 entries in the Art Competition.
  • Beef 94 featured a guest appearance by 60 Minutes founding reporter, George Negus, and a new pavilion was built for the Trade Fair.
  • Beef 97 saw off a threat from Victoria to stage a similar event. Country music icon Slim Dusty was a Beef Ambassador, and the Expo was awarded a grant to employ an event manager.
  • Beef 2000 was opened by comedian Gerry Connolly impersonating Queen Elizabeth II. Australia’s richest campdraft offered $80,000 in prizes and attracted 320 riders. 1000 overseas visitors attended from 15 countries.
  • Beef 2003’s Supreme Champion Female was a Charolais, the fourth time the breed had taken out the award; the crowd ate 10,000 steaks and 20,000 sausages.
  • Beef 2006 was held in tandem with the World Braford Congress, featuring cattle from seven member countries.
  • Beef 2009 featured a record-breaking crowd of 68,000 people including seven celebrity chefs, and the inaugural Bush Poetry Competition. Best value-added product was Cargill’s microwaveable beef roast.
  • Beef 2012 sought to attract new trade opportunities with a $22.2 million grant from the Federal Government, and held an International Beef Cattle Genetics Conference in tandem with the Expo.
  • Beef 2015 won the Bronze Award for Major Festivals & Events at the Queensland Tourism Awards, featured nine international chefs and each visitor spent on average $1615/head.
  • Beef 2018 featured guest speakers, NSW regenerative agriculture author Charles Massy, stockmen from export cattle ships, and Teys Australia briefing visitors on their new feedback program for feeder cattle.
  • Beef 2021 was the focus of meticulous scenario planning for the COVID-19 epidemic, but it was staged without any exposure to the virus and set records for attendance and economic benefits. The highlights were two event firsts, an agtech and innovation hub and an arts and cultural program that featured the world premiere of Opera Queensland’s performance of ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’.

Local Rockhampton cattle producer Geoff Maynard was involved in the inaugural Beef 88 event and has been to every Beef Expo since.

“Our industry covers an enormous area in Australia, and we all get very excited that every three years, it’s time to get together again for the advancement of the beef industry,” Geoff said.

“The inaugural organisers saw the opportunity to create something special and Beef has become the premier beef event, run by a world class organisation, that is relevant and sustainable and celebrates the best of the industry. You have to go!”

ENDS

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