The international meat industry is confronting a massive shift and has witnessed a whirlwind of developments and changes across the sector.
However, there has also been an array of winners, with new market openings, as well as several mergers and joint ventures creating huge opportunities.
With so many uncertainties, it is difficult to determine the future of the industry. However, GlobalMeatNews has narrowed down three key topics that we will be keeping our eyes on for 2019.
Yes, we had to mention the B word, but nearly three years on since the UK voted to leave the European Union, negotiations are still in limbo, leaving many meat processors worrying for their futures.
Politics has played a big role in agriculture this year and, without a right deal for the UK, international meat traders face challenges with tariffs, veterinary checks and customs.
Many European producers have been proactive in the lead-up to Brexit and are making preparations to cement trade ties with the UK. The most recent of these include German meat firm Tönnies Group buying out Cumberland sausage producer Riverway Foods to expand its market share in the UK, and Kepak acquiring Boparan Holdings’ 2 Sisters Red Meat division.
There also remains a dilemma on the UK being flexible with its welfare standards in terms of chlorinated chicken and hormone beef from the US. The UK’s meat trade body heavyweights, including the British Meat Processors Association and the British Poultry Council, have remained firm that they don’t want to see those types of product imported into Britain.
However, according to poll by the UK’s Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, there are consumers who would not be put off by imported treated meats being stocked in supermarkets and would not alter their shopping habits.
As Prime Minister Theresa May attempts to iron out the Brexit deal before the end of March 2019, meat processors will be eager to finally have some answers on their futures.
US trade grovelling
After a turbulent year with retaliatory tariffs imposed on US meat products, President Donald Trump is working with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to build bridges with some of the major meat markets across the world, including China, Mexico and Canada.
US pork farmers revealed a few months ago that tariffs imposed on the US had significantly damaged the sector financially, as costs ramped up to US$1.5bn.
However, progress is being made to rectify the damage, with China agreeing in principle that it would cut tariffs by up to 40%. The agreement was made during a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires earlier this month.
Meanwhile the US, Canada and Mexico also signed a deal to open up trade between the countries.
The move was welcomed by the National Pork Producers Council president Jim Heimerl, who said it would preserve zero-tariff pork trade in the US for the long term.
That said, Trump has been known to be very unpredictable and one more slip-up by the US President could result in catastrophic results for the meat industry.
It was a pivotal year for meat alternative manufacturers, which are keeping up the pressure on traditional livestock producers to perform strongly.
With many global meat alternative companies, such as Vivera and Beyond Meat, securing listings at major retailers in the UK, there will be concerns over whether the sector will drive out traditional meat businesses.
The cultured meat industry has also revealed big ambitions in terms of bringing lab-grown meats to the mainstream market. During a visit to Maastricht, the Netherlands earlier this year, Mosa Meat’s co-founder Mark Post revealed to GlobalMeatNews that lab-grown meat had the potential to entirely replace livestock meat production across the sector. The company added that it predicted lab-grown meats would be sold in retailers globally in the next 10 years.
Innovation has been a key driver for the success of meat alternatives, with companies including Cargill expanding plant-based products into the fish sector.
Consumer demand for meat alternatives is also getting stronger every month, as Mintel revealed sales were outgrowing traditional meat purchases in the UK.
So, how far can the meat alternatives sector go?
Will we see plant-based proteins have dedicated aisles in supermarkets? Due to the number of products already available to the market, we predict it’s only a matter of time before retailers stop stocking items alongside animal-based products.
Will cultured meats become more known in the industry? It’s probably a long way off, considering the amount of time it took for plant-based proteins to be widely accepted, but it certainly has a huge amount of potential.