Meat industry predicts trends and outlook for 2017
Meat Management speaks to industry experts across the meat sector and hears their predictions and plans for this year.
First to offer his views is Norman Bagley, head of policy at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), who described the past year as “a stormer”.
“Tories win when they didn’t believe they had a chance, Cameron out on his ear, Brexit when even Brexiteers didn’t fancy their chances and finally Trump when he had less than a 5% chance according to polls only the night before. Blimey, who’d be a pollster?”, he said of 2016.
“So what for 2017? Brexit negotiations are bound to trump all else apart from Labour falling apart under Corbie and his lovely band of travellers. Is it too much to ask for our glorious leaders to just get their heads down, cut the rhetoric and get us out in as straight forward way as possible? My guess is that negotiating bilateral agreements will not prove anything like as difficult as puffed up EU mandarins are suggesting as I think they’re firing blanks. The EU is teetering on the edge never mind Brexit.”
Speaking on behalf of the poultry sector, Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council (BPC), also unsurprisingly sees Brexit as a key focus for 2017.
He explained: “We want a Brexit solution where the Government actually recognises the importance of access to labour from beyond our borders, and the need for tariff-free trade with our European partners.
“As well as that, the poultry meat sector is going to carry on leading the way in the responsible use of antibiotics.”
Over in Scotland, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) president, Allan Jess, commented: “It’s no surprise that Brexit will be pretty much top of our agenda in 2017 with the need for clear assurance from Government on future labour requirements and the framing of post-Brexit regulations which will ease the current burdens on businesses rather than add to them. If the Government gets it wrong on either of these points, the industry will suffer. However, this is also an opportunity for the UK’s negotiators to get it right; creating a new and positive platform for business.
“We will be pressing for Government to grasp the opportunities on offer in 2017 rather than succumb to the pressures.
“SAMW member companies will also be looking for Scotland’s livestock to be granted BSE negligible risk status early in 2017 in recognition of the fact that the last confirmed BSE case in Scotland involved an animal born in 2002.”
Butcher to table
For butcher’s shop owners, it is thought that ready meals and free from products will see a further sales boom next year. Butchers Q Guild manager Gordon Newlands suggests butchers increase their convenience products and reduce allergens in their recipes.
He told Meat Management: “Ready meals and prepared foods have shown a huge rise in 2016 and there is no sign of this trend slowing down in 2017, with the consumer working long days and having very little time to shop or cook from scratch.
“Free from is also an area where I think the consumer will be asking questions of their butchers and it is prudent that butchers try to cut down allergens and preservatives in recipes. This all links with the popular rise of the ‘protein packs’, with the gym being the new pub for some.”
Newlands continued: “There is no doubt that the industry is facing challenges in 2017. Brexit may be starting to hit some of our larger businesses, as import prices are starting to creep higher.
“The labelling regulation will cause a few problems and it will be interesting to see if there will be a blanket understanding from all council environment health officers (EHOs). The modern butcher must be prepared to offer the ‘butcher to table’ philosophy.
“Butchers will need to look at efficiencies in driving their business forward and, indeed, look at every facet of their business to drive efficiencies through. The maxim: ‘keep on top of costs and monitor weekly’ will see butchers survive and thrive.”
It is clear to Meat Management that, with Article 50 set to be triggered and ever demanding consumers looking for the perfect combination of quality; provenance and convenience, 2017 is shaping up to be a challenging but rewarding year for the meat sector.