EU beef consumption trends expected to decline – Burke

It is expected that meat consumption across EU member states will continue to marginally decrease over the coming years, the Teagasc National Beef Conference 2019 has heard.

Speaking at the well-attended event (an estimated 400 attendees) – which took place at the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris, Co. Mayo – Bord Bia’s senior meat and livestock manager described the emerging trend as “somewhat worrying”.

Burke presented this reality by highlighting consumption trends in some of the EU’s mature beef markets – he also highlighted how this scenario is impacting on the stagnant beef price situation in Ireland.

“The UK market is about 5% self sufficient in beef; we [Irish beef exports] represent about 80% of their total import requirement.

“Their production levels are up around 1%; but what is more worrying is that their retail sales are back about 1.2%,” he said.

Burke said the story is even more negative at food service level in the UK; he also cautioned that the UK’s imports are down about 13%.

It was also outlined that in France – Ireland’s second-biggest market by volume of beef where the market is about 90% self sufficient, and in Germany – another key market – beef production is in decline.

While production of beef increased last year by about 3% overall in Europe, Burke stated that this year there has been “a slight decline”.

Next year it looks set to decline and contract further.

“On consumption of beef, this is the more worrying statistic; European markets in general, a lot of them are mature markets but their potential to see further increases in terms of consumption of beef is limited.

“We look set to see declines of consumption in many of these member states in the region of 1% on average this year and next year – so that’s somewhat worrying.

“But this also underlines some opportunity in these markets – where in some of these markets we have consumers that describe themselves or their consumer habits as ‘flexitarian’.

“These consumers are not vegetarian or vegan; but they will choose to cut down on their meat consumption.

Increasingly, these are the people that are choosing to eat less meat – but they are also choosing to consume better meat.

“They are also a bit less price conscious; but they are looking for the quality product,” said Burke.

The theme for this year’s Teagasc conference is ‘Irish Beef – A Changing Landscape’.

Other speakers on the night included: Donagh Berry Teagasc research geneticist; Alan Dillon Teagasc specialist; and Andrew Cromie of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF).