Global outlook

The recent Bristol University Langford Conference, 'Global Trends in Meat Production', had an impressive list of speakers, including Bob Bansback.

Bob is an economist and is known by many in our industry as someone who brings life and interest to this sometimes rather dry subject. He also has a way of surprising you! Here is an example. He took us back 25 years to 1983 and compared the livestock numbers in the UK with 2008. It was amazing to see how big the changes have been: cattle and calves down by 25%; sheep and lambs down 8%; and pigs down a staggering 42%! And the numbers are continuing to decline.

Yet there has been a huge growth in world economies over the last 25 years - until relatively recently. World demand for meat has been climbing steadily. So what is going on? I don't know the answer, but meat producers in the southern hemisphere have been unduly busy over this same period, with consistent livestock making it possible to provide long runs of production.

This is not new. Older readers will remember Argentine beef in quarters were all like peas in a pod. New Zealand lamb carcases were the same. The only thing that has changed is the convenience of beef in boneless form and lamb in boxed cuts. They are still incredibly reliable.

This appeal of flavour and tenderness has led to the large numbers of Argentine Steak Houses in Germany and, more recently, the Goucho Grills here - with one now open near Smithfield. So beef-eaters across Europe can be discerning and seek out the meat they want. This includes the best of British and, since competition is always good for you, perhaps 2008 will prove to be the low-point for UK livestock numbers. I will make a note to check 25 years from now.


Liz Murphy, director, International Meat Trade Association

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