Beef on trend throughout Europe

Beef is fashionable across the European market and the UK is well-placed to tap into demand for premium products, delegates to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board’s Outlook Conference were told.

Speaking at the London event last week, Jean-Pierre Garnier, head of exports for Eblex and Bpex, said there was a growing demand in the beef market for cheap cuts such as mince, but there was still plenty of opportunity in the premium sector, highlighting the growing numbers of top-end steakhouses across the continent.

He said growth was partly down to a fall in quality: “Retailers are fighting price wars and something has to give, and what is giving is the quality. What we’re seeing is the quality of beef falling all across Europe.”

However, he said people were still looking for premium products and were prepared to pay more for a better experience. “We’re seeing growth in the concept of ‘Steakhouse 2.0’ – and with that, it’s all about the experience rather than just eating out. Beef is booming and it’s fashionable as a premium product. People buying steaks want quality and a good experience and they’re prepared to pay a higher price.”

To tap into that growing market, UK producers needed to change their mindset, he added: “People want marbling on their beef now, yet we’ve been telling farmers to produce young, lean, cheap beef for the last 40 years.”

He highlighted the fact exports of UK meat had boomed from £800m in 2006 to around £2.34bn today, and said those figures would continue to grow, albeit at a slightly lower rate. He said the UK sector needed to embrace the premium market: “When we started exporting in 2006, we were the cheapest in the market, now we’re the most expensive in Europe, but that’s a good thing. We just need to change how we sell beef if we want to keep that value.”

On the sheepmeat sector, Garnier said there was rising consumption across Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. “It’s not massive, but it’s steady,” he added, and third-country exports also continued to grow, with strong potential in Russia.

He said that while UK sheepmeat prices were high in comparison to the rest of the competition, he said the UK had a distinct advantage: “The UK produces 40% of the EU’s commercialised sheepmeat, and that gives us a very strong strategic advantage. When we’re talking to the retailers across Europe, they know we are a significant player and it opens doors.”


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