Consumers both in Europe and the US are trading down from prime cuts to mince and processed products, Jean-Pierre Garnier, head of export for UK levy bodies Eblex and Bpex, told delegates to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board’s Outlook Conference in London.
However, he said that while there was increased demand for cheaper meat, there was still a market for premium products, as witnessed by the rising numbers of high-end steak houses opening up across the continent. He said the retail price wars had led to a drop in the quality of beef, and consumers were still willing to pay a little extra to have a good experience when eating a steak.
He said that opened up opportunities for UK exporters, who had seen meat exports increase in value from £800m in 2006 to £2.34bn today. He said: “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.”
He said the UK had a strong position and reputation when it came to quality beef, but added there needed to be a shift in how the UK sold its products, with a shift away from producing young, cheap, lean meat, to a more marbled product.
He also reported steadily increasing demand for sheepmeat across Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, while third-country markets also continued to see an increase in demand.