Farmers and processors were called before an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on 16 October to discuss the pressures the beef supply chain currently faces.
These representatives and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) agreed that the industry needed to “find its own narrative”. The sector has already been struggling with a dip in consumption and historically low prices.
Stuart Roberts, vice president of the National Farmers Union, called on Defra to provide support for the industry to turn the tide on consumers’ departure from meat consumption. He cited the need for a major publicity campaign to match that of the meat-free sector.
“There is a good opportunity here,” he said. “The industry needs to step up and do something ourselves. Why don’t we all put some more money on the table, get a campaign going and try to turn the tide on this decline.
Plant-based lobby’s ‘phenomenal resources’
“Those that are fighting against us are doing it with phenomenal resources. What we want is for Government to match the levy that is needed to start to drive demand.
“Let’s have a look at what many protein alternatives are doing. They are promoting a narrative and presenting the consumer with an attractive product. Currently, we just do not see enough innovation [among our own industry].”
His comments come as the committee questioned the work of much of the industry over the past few years, claiming more needed to be done by industry to address the decline in beef sales.
Committee chair Neil Parish added: “You have to get demand and stimulate it. The retailers have had the opportunities, why didn’t they take them? Neither have the processors themselves.”
Parish highlighted that 81% of the country still consumed meat, urging the industry to further tap into that market.
Meanwhile, in addition to concerns surrounding low beef prices damaging businesses, meat executives warned that a no-deal Brexit would further “destroy” the industry.
Tom Kirwan, managing director of ABP, UK said: “It will have a tsunami effect.” His words were echoed by Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association. “A no-deal Brexit will totally destroy British beef practices,” he said.