ANALYSIS – Conference Season is at its busiest, reports senior editor, Jackie Linden, who has recently attended the UK’s leading trade show for the poultry sector and an international conference in Brussels with a wider geographical perspective.Common themes emerged from both events, however: overcoming the challenges of high costs of production – especially with feed ingredient prices and exchange rates so volatile – and tighter regulation on welfare and food safety, all in a generally difficult economic climate.
Held in Brussels this week was the ‘World Poultry 2012’ conference, organised by Informa and attended by 80 delegates at the cutting edge of the poultry meat sector from across the world. With a theme of ‘Meeting Consumer and Retailer Needs, Regulations and Staying in Profit’, there were 16 presentations over the two days, looking broadly at the future of the poultry meat market across the world and the regulation of broiler welfare and food safety issues.
Pig and poultry producers gathered to see the latest technology and gain useful business information at the British Pig & Poultry Fair 2012 for two days last week.
Among the complete programme of expert talks and workshops offered to the visitors in the two–day event opened with an outlook for the UK poultry meat and egg sectors.
In his analysis of the future challenges for the poultry meat industry, John Reed (Chairman of the British Poultry Council and Agriculture Director of Cargill Meats Europe) pointed out that the average weight in chickens has decreased since 2007, which he attributed to the growing demand for products from food service.
The lifting of a ban on imports of raw poultry meat imports from Thailand to the EU from July this year is expected to lead to more imported product coming in. Overall, Mr Reed sees the poultry market in growth and expects this to continue, while the turkey sector is showing signs of improvement and duck producers remain under pressure.
CEO of egg company, Noble Foods, Peter Thornton, offered his view of the outlook for the UK egg sector. He highlighted how well the industry has managed to reduced Salmonella levels over recent years. Per-capita egg consumption has also risen although it remains behind the EU average.
A hot issue for the industry at the moment is the implementation of the EU Directive to ban unenriched cages for laying hens, according to Mr Thornton. He said that politicians have not protected poultry producers as much as they promised and some countries within the EU still have not updated all their facilities. This has pushed up egg prices during the first months of this year and it also caused a shortage in the egg supply across the EU.
‘Illegal eggs’ produced in battery cages have been used legally in the food industry but from July 2012, this will be banned as well, and Mr Thornton believes this will be a crucial moment for the industry.
In the last six months, free–range and organic eggs have lost market share against caged eggs in sales at the major UK retailers as consumers shift their purchases to ‘value’ eggs. Mr Thornton called on the producer association, BFREPA, and the egg packers to work together to re–balance the free-range market.
British pork, chicken and eggs are enjoying growing demand from food service, a sector whose potential is often overlooked but it was the subject of the headline debate at the British Pig & Poultry Fair.
In a good discussion, representatives from a speciality butcher supplying the sector, pig processing company, Tulip, and a food service supplier outlined the opportunities offered by the sector. Karen McQuade, who founded The UK Foodhall in 2007, presented an inspiring success story for British products sold into schools. Her organisation has become the No. 1 supplier to the nation’s schools, for which she and her company have received many awards. The original concept, still adhered to, is for the company to source products that cannot be found on the offer from importers.
Looking to Canada, the value of poultry meat sales in 2011 was 14.1 per cent than the previous year, and that of egg sales was up by 9.2 per cent.
There have been no new outbreaks of bird flu in the last week but maize growers in Bangladesh are reporting losses. They attribute their difficulties to the closure of 25,000 poultry farms over the last year due to avian influenza.