ABP to reveal meat industry ‘white paper’

By Dan Colombini

- Last updated on GMT

The paper will highlight a range of issues to support growth for the sector, amid ongoing concerns over its future
The paper will highlight a range of issues to support growth for the sector, amid ongoing concerns over its future

Related tags Finance Meat & Seafood

Meat processor ABP Food Group is undertaking a study on the future and sustainability of the meat industry, which it will launch and submit to the Government in the coming weeks.

The paper will highlight a range of issues to support growth for the sector, amid ongoing concerns over its future.

ABP director Tom Kirwan initially discussed proposals for the plan after industry representatives were called before a Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) committee​ meeting on 16 October.

At the meeting, Kirwan, alongside additional representatives from the industry, spoke of the need to highlight the health benefits of meat and to be proactive to tackle the rapid growth of plant-based products.

A source close to the proposals told Food Manufacture​ that the study would focus “primarily on the meat sector and sets out a range of options to address the key challenges facing the sector.

“It will examine areas such as climate change, feeding the needs of a growing global population and a vibrant rural economy​.”

Similar initiatives

It is scheduled to be made public over the next few weeks, the source added. The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales and Quality Meat Scotland have already launched a number of similar initiatives.

​[We are seeking to support the industry] through proactive media stories, consumer campaigns, and establishing a panel of experts, including nutritionists, health professionals and researchers, to provide impartial health advice,” ​Will Jackson, AHDB beef and lamb strategy director, told Food Manufacture.

“Our programme not only reaches out to consumers, but also other health professionals, teachers and journalists. AHDB’s consumer-facing channels, Simply Beef and Lamb and Love Pork, provide inspirational recipes, nutritional information and advice on different cuts and cooking methods. Providing a platform for our promotional campaigns, resulting in million-pound sales increases across our sectors​.”

Greater communication

However, despite these efforts, the beef sector, in particular, is currently facing something of a crisis, with stakeholders calling for greater communication down between the supply chain to “write a new narrative​” for the products on offer.

They have called on Defra to support this with additional funding to match greater investment from firms themselves.

A Defra spokeswoman told Food Manufacture​ that it was “committed to opening up new trading opportunities and ensuring our meat industry remains strong and profitable”​.

“Just this month we finalised an historic agreement to export British beef to China, which is worth an estimated £230m over the first five years of trade.”

Japan has also recently lifted a ban on British beef and lamb exports, allowing exports worth an estimated £130m over five years. In addition, Taiwan has lifted a ban on British pork exports, allowing future trade worth an estimated £50m.

Furthermore, the Department for International Trade also recently launched a new market access tool, which will help rapidly identify and knock down unnecessary trade barriers for UK businesses.

However, Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association, told Food Manufacture​ that the “industry could be doing a lot more.​”

These are significant challenges we face. The meat industry has to get together and not take consumers for granted. But Government has a role to play in this too​.”

Stuart Roberts, vice-president of the National Farmers Union, agreed. “Everyone seems to look to AHDB to solve this for them,​” he said. “They are significant player and need to put more of their resources into this problem of reputation. But I want them to have a very clear objective around driving consumption at home and abroad.

Advocacy work

We’re ready to play our part, we are doing more of this advocacy work that really ought to be done by other people. We are happy to do our bit. British beef, for example, remains the best in the world and we need to let people know that​.”

And maintaining those standards is key for those further up the supply chain, with retailers calling for quality product to be delivered alongside this promotion drive to allow consumers a viable choice.

There is a need for processors to improve and sustain quality to maximise the genuine health benefits​,” said Douglas Ashby, director of independent London-based butcher Ashby’s.

As a retailer, we only want to deal in quality and require the supply chain and specifically our suppliers to practice what they preach and provide good-quality product that is going to compete with – and work alongside – plant-based goods to provide the consumer with a healthy choice to suit their needs​.”

ABP recently announced the introduction of new sustainable packaging for a number of its European customers. The move will see a reduction of 70% of the amount of plastics used to package its meat products. The packaging includes recyclable card coupled with a thin film of peel away plastic.

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