Wednesday, 21 December 2016

An insight into the 21st World Meat Conference in Uruguay

I attended the 21st World Meat Conference which was held in Uruguay in November, it was a great opportunity to hear from meat experts from across the globe.

Getting an insight into Uruguay and its meat industry also proved extremely beneficial. Beef production is a way of life and nationals eat around 57kg per person per year, this compares to the UK’s consumption of around 18kg per person per year.

Uruguayan cattle mainly consist of Hereford and Angus breeds, all of which are primarily grass-fed and produce consistent, high-quality beef.

Despite their high domestic consumption, exports remain a key focus, with 45 per cent of home-grown beef heading to China and plans to expand further on to the Japanese market.

Sheep numbers stand at approximately seven million. Interestingly, the sheep kill appears very volatile, with a range of one to two million per annum in the recent past. The reasons for such disparate supply include stock theft, predation and the fact that sheep are viewed as a short-term investment rather than a long-term operation.

Key challenges for both their sheep and beef markets include maintaining and growing livestock numbers as well as reducing international tariff barriers. In the UK we have fragmented breeding flock and herds that limit producers' ability to improve their competitiveness.

At the same time, changes in the consumer’s habits mean demand for traditional beef and lamb cuts are falling, affecting all parts of the supply chain. In light of Brexit we face a somewhat uncertain future and will have to look to other countries, outside of the EU, to discover new ways of trading.

First on the agenda was the International Meat Secretariat (IMS) Marketing Workshop, which provided an opportunity for each country to present key projects from their home market. There were 45 delegates, representing 11 countries.

Topics covered included education, positioning our industry and storytelling. There were some extremely impactful ideas, for example Beef and Lamb New Zealand told the conference how they were teaching consumers to cook beef and lamb with a free magazine – to date 335,000 copies have been distributed.

Our head of marketing, Nick White, presented "Keema: one recipe, ten dishes", which has been one of our key consumer marketing campaigns for 2016. The initiative aims to introduce consumers to lamb mince, with the view that once they became confident with cooking the mince using different flavours they would go on to cook with other cuts of lamb.

I presented during the ‘Positioning our Industry’ part of the day and talked about encouraging women into the meat industry and the great career opportunities it can bring. In 2015 I set up ‘Meat Business Women’ a professional networking group for women working in the meat industry.

The second part of the workshop was dedicated to three challenging areas for the meat sector – health and nutrition, sustainability and animal welfare. We broke into three groups, each discussing one of the topics and looking at how negative messages can be switched to being positive. For example, when there is negative publicity about the consumption of red meat, there is an opportunity to counteract these claims with positive health messages about the nutritional value of meat.

Following on from the marketing workshop, the main World Meat Conference (WMC) was attended by 750 delegates from 38 countries, representing commercial companies, trade associations and levy boards. Various meat committees met and talked about their experience of current factors affecting meat production including governance, consumer attitudes, sustainability and global trends.

Overall, attending the workshop and conference gave me the opportunity to extensively network with key contacts and helped me understand where we fit in terms of the global meat marketplace. I found it a fascinating experience and now have more of an understanding of how we can work with others in a global marketplace.

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