Jason Strong is no stranger to speaking to crowds, but he most definitely had a captive audience at the recent GenAngus Future Leaders Program. 

Taking up the keynote speaker role during the evening event, Mr Strong joined the 2023 cohort of GenAngus during their opening function of the program, which took place May 30th to June 2nd at Glenelg, SA. 

With his role as Managing Director of Meat and Livestock Australia, it was clear to the group, which was made up of twelve young members of the beef industry, that there was much to be gained from Mr Strong’s insight into the beef industry, the role it plays within Australia’s landscape and what he reflects on when looking back at his career. 

“I do a lot of this. I talk a lot,” said Mr Strong when he first addressed the cohort.  “And to me this is one of the most important things I do, because there’s a difference between things being public and popular and things being important.” 

“I’m more nervous in this type of environment because it’s important. You’ve already heard some really good stuff with some good lessons and views of things, so it’s hard to know where you start and what might be helpful. So, I’m going to share a little bit about my journey and some of the things that have helped me along the way.” 

Speaking firstly of his time as part of the Angus Youth program, Mr Strong reflected on his history with the program, which dates back to 1980 when he was the recipient of the University of Illinois Scholarship, awarded by Angus Australia following his win at the Angus National Judging Competition. 

Highlighting what it meant for him to be able to take up the scholarship opportunity at a time when there was a lack of similar opportunities in the industry, Mr Strong said, “I often talk about that being one of the most impactful things for me or the most impactful point in time. And I often thought it was because I won a trip to the US and to Illinois, and I met some really good people, but I think it was actually a lot more than that.” 

“What’s probably dawned on me later in life is that wasn’t what made me who I am. That wasn’t what made me do the things that I’ve done. If that didn’t exist, I would have found another way to do the sorts of things I did, or something similar to it. But it was a catalyst, it was something that helped me along the way, and it was a trigger or a point in time that got me going.” 

Interestingly, Mr Strong highlighted that in reflection of his career, the scholarship wasn’t the ‘turning point’, and it was an adversary faced prior to taking out the scholarship that he believes had a more pivotal impact on his life. 

“The more impactful thing for me around the judging competition was actually the year before (winning it). The year before, I was actually in the judging final and I didn’t win,” he said. 

“There were actually more people who were sure I was going to win that year than there was the next year. That was probably more impactful on my leadership journey than the actual process of winning.” 

When looking at the position the industry is in in relation to opportunity for growth, Mr Strong highlighted that while there has been downturn in the markets in 2023, the industry is still very well placed. 

“In agriculture, and particularly in livestock, things aren’t better than they’ve ever been before. They’re better than we could have ever imagined them being,” said Mr Strong.  

“Prices have come down now and they’ll be volatile for a while, but the position we’re in now is incredibly, incredibly positive, but that’s actually the same for everybody.” 

Furthermore, Mr Strong gave advice to the twelve young audience members who were just beginning to embark on an excellent development opportunity as part of the GenAngus program, which required them over a number of days to not only digest a large amount of information, but to also become rather vulnerable and open minded within their experience.   

“The opportunity for young people to learn, get leadership skills, get support, get networks, get connections, that opportunity is actually the same kind for everybody in one way or another. It’s what we actually choose to do with that which then becomes really important and the thing that becomes really impactful in what we choose to do with the opportunities that we have.” 

He highlighted that while being selected for something, like GenAngus or in his experience the Illinois Scholarship, was important, what you do with what you have learnt through the experience is what makes the difference.   

“Tomorrow is actually the really important thing, next week is actually the really important thing,” he said. “So, with what you’ve heard tonight, what you hear tomorrow, what you learned from climbing a tree with ropes that I’m really glad that I didn’t have to learn from, is what is very important.” 

“It’s what we then do with what we have that becomes incredibly important and that’s been a really valuable lesson for me, as it’s the choice we make with our opportunities.” 

He continued, “Don’t let people guilt you into how good the opportunity is, because things are better now than they’ve ever been before for a whole range of reasons. Not just the industry, but for people in general because Australia is actually the best place in the world. We’re ridiculously privileged.” 

“We’re ridiculously better off than anybody else but that’s also just how it is. We have great opportunity, and you don’t have to choose to do stuff with it. It’s not bad if you choose not to want to be a leader or not to want to drive things forward, but if you’ve got opportunity, it’s not going to happen unless you make a choice to do actually something about it.  Nobody else can do it for you.” 

Cheyne Twist, Senior Marketing and Communications Officer 

Feature Image: Jason Strong, Managing Director of MLA and Scott Wright CEO Angus Australia