Thursday, 5 November 2015

Outlook for beef and lamb in focus at conference

This week saw the AHDB Beef & Lamb Conference examine global opportunities and challenges facing the sector.

Opened by AHDB Chairman Peter Kendall, the impact of farmgate prices and challenges such as the recent International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report linking red and processed meat with cancer, were acknowledged. Importantly, AHDB’s role in meeting and often rebutting such challenges was highlighted.

AHDB Chairman Peter Kendall

Defending the industry is important to acknowledge. Equally as important, however, Peter referenced the many proactive positives, like our work on exports, the domestic Halal market, new cuts development and our Better Returns Programme (BRP), stressing the need to make the most of emerging opportunities to benefit the sector as a whole.

Coming back to the point about the industry meeting external challenges, the presentation by Professor Michael Lee made for encouraging listening. Concluding that ruminant production has a vital role to play in global food security, he also said that grazing systems can supply a high-value product, while delivering an environmental need, something we’ve highlighted previously in our
Landscapes without Livestock report. He also raised a point that we have often said before that ruminants convert feed not suitable for human consumption into food that is suitable for a growing population. 

Another key area touched on at the conference was exports. Stan Phillips, Agriculture Councillor at the US Embassy, gave an insight into the future for US/EU trade for beef and lamb. He outlined how sheep meat imports to the US increased in 2014, with more than 80 per cent of shipments coming from Australia. While we don’t yet have access to the US market, he highlighted how exports of high-quality cuts would provide the best opportunities for UK lamb.

Stan was followed by Beef+Lamb New Zealand’s Dave Harrison who provided delegates with a review of New Zealand sheep supply. They heard how the organisation works and is held to account by producers, why the EU remains an important market, and how the rise of markets in North Asia have been central to New Zealand’s export strategy.

All provided plenty of food for thought and prompted an interesting question and answer panel session, not least on the issue of New Zealand lamb’s impact on the market in the UK. Panel sessions like this are an integral part of any successful conference in prompting debate on key topics. This afternoon panel underlined this with AHDB’s Peter Kendall, Tom Hind, Nick Allen and Chris Lloyd fielding questions in a lively afternoon session.

AHDB Beef & Lamb Conference afternoon panel session

The conference also gave delegates the chance to find out more about AHDB Beef & Lamb’s work, from consumer and trade marketing, to working directly with producers through our Better Returns Programme (BRP) and how we communicate with the industry. Staff were on hand to talk delegates through these respective areas and a series of presentations took place in the afternoon, highlighting specific areas of work.

AHDB R&D Livestock Director Chris Lloyd covered the array of work undertaken through the BRP, while Kim Matthews outlined the volume of research and development projects currently running. Mike Whittemore showcased trade marketing activity, highlighting the importance of our cuts development work in adding value to the carcase, before Rémi Fourrier gave an overview our activities in the French market, from promotional work in hypermarkets to organising visits for industry journalists to look at UK production systems. Rémi also outlined the importance of the
three-year European Lamb Campaign.

Panel sessions prompted lively debate

The AHDB Beef & Lamb presentations concluded with Jane Ritchie-Smith looking at consumer marketing, including the
latest TV advertising campaign, and AHDB Market Development Direct Nick Allen looking at the outlook for beef and lamb from the consumer perspective. Nick focussed on the opportunities in the Halal sector, the impact of the hard discounters on shopping habits and, underlining Peter Kendall’s earlier comments, how we have to be robust in defending the industry when challenged by reports like the one from IARC last week.

Overall, the conference, highlighted the breadth of work AHDB Beef & Lamb does on behalf of the industry, illustrating where the opportunities and challenges are and how we can meet those together. As new AHDB Beef & Lamb Strategy Director, Laura Ryan, concluded, it’s essential for AHDB Beef & Lamb to continue working for, and engage with, the sector to ensure we capitalise on the opportunities for home-produced beef and lamb domestically and globally

Conference presentations can be found on the Annual Conference 2015 page of our website The conference can be viewed in tweets here. A video summarising the even can be found on AHDB Beef & Lamb TV.

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