Thursday, 3 November 2011

EBLEX conference 2011 – from Big Bang to secure future

EBLEX’s annual conference has become a major date in the calendar for producers, processors, agricultural journalists, trade associations and EBLEX staff to mix and discuss issues affecting all aspects of the industry, and this year’s event didn’t disappoint.

Around 170 delegates attended this week’s event at Kenilworth’s Chesford Grange Hotel which provided the platform for lively presentations, debate and culminated with calls for an industry action plan to tackle future challenges from EBLEX chairman John Cross.

Undoubtedly one of the highlights with the audience was the entertaining and enlightening presentation on red meat and health from guest speaker and Meat Advisory Panel member (and former EBLEX board member) Prof Robert Pickard.

Bringing the house down with a series of one-liners, including “You will never see a cave painting of a vegetarian”, he made a number of serious, valid and well-measured points about the nutritional value of red meat. We’re all aware of the ongoing challenges driven by industry detractors surrounding the image of the industry. Somewhat surprisingly starting with the Big Bang, Prof Pickard commented on red meat’s crucial role in a balanced diet, its positive contribution to the environment and the fact that climate change isn’t a new phenomenon.

Delegates heard about the outlook and global prospects for the beef and lamb from EBLEX sector director Nick Allen and head of trade development Peter Hardwick, while marketing activity in France was outlined by Rémi Fourrier, EBLEX export manager for that country. Nick added that Halal needs to come off the "too difficult" list. He said it is important to the industry, EBLEX is taking it seriously and other people in the industry need to as well.

Unsurprisingly, ongoing domestic economic uncertainty and Eurozone difficulties prompted concern, which was touched on by John Cross in his closing comments. Importantly he stressed that businesses in the red meat industry that survived these volatile times would be those who were fastest and most willing to adapt to change and invest in a global market vision, although significant disease outbreak remained a major Achilles heel for the sector.

His closing rallying call left the conference in no doubt what would play a major role in the sector’s future success. He called for an accurate, high-speed data-base for sheep and beef sectors, capturing assurance status to put the industry on an equal - or better – footing than competitors. As he rightly said “No one else is going to grant us a secure future”.

EBLEX’s press release on the annual conference can be viewed by clicking here.

All the conference presentations are available on the EBLEX website and can be viewed by clicking here.