global outlook

Last week, IMTA held its 100th annual general meeting. Back on 11 January 1910 the association was known as the Incorporated Society of Meat Importers and I unearthed the minutes of the first AGM when members were all from companies based around Smithfield. Today, only two of our Council members are around Smithfield. Company names such as Borthwick, Sansinena and Eastmans have disappeared.

Interestingly, after the formalities to incorporate the association were completed, the only item on the agenda was a proposed inaugural dinner. How civilised! The ticket price was 30 shillings (£1.50) including wine. Issues of concern taken up at a later meeting concerned port charges, insurance clauses and whether stock levels should be published (something opposed and abandoned).

Between then and now, before entering the EU, the UK consumer experienced a substantial period of time when food production was subsidised by the UK government. Perhaps we are paying the price of that today as we lament that people seem unwilling to pay more for food. But what has really changed is not a more profitable farming sector but the cost of delivering that meat to the consumer.

Talking with a catering butcher, we concluded that things have got out of hand. Safe, nutritious meat could be supplied at a lower cost years ago, but did we endanger life from the meat we produced or imported? Everyone claims they know what consumers want and friends indicate they want tasty/tender meat. The majority would be amazed at the costs imposed along the way. The cost of BSE directly (SRM) or indirectly (assurance schemes) is huge to our industry. We need better enforcement and less regulation for those who comply - at least that would be a start.

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