Report: imbue meat brands with regional character

Record lamb prices are predicted again this season. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Record lamb prices are predicted again this season. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Identifying regional appellations for New Zealand red meat — much like the global wine industry — has been suggested in a report on shaping the future of the red meat sector.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand commissioned Kantar Singapore and worked with industry partners to develop the report which was released this week.

It identified seven key trends, including growth in alternative models of health and an "explosion" of personalised health data, emerging technology driving consumer purchasing decisions, a resistance to industrialised food production and a desire for total transparency.

It recommended the sector continue its push towards food products "tied to a unique New Zealand culture".

That would mean exporting a story about New Zealand food that elevated the value of red meat products.

Such an approach could include New Zealand identifying unique flavour profiles, much like the wine industry around the world.

The study also urged the sector to hedge against the rise in meat alternatives.

Firmly establishing the health credentials of beef and lamb, and turning sustainable red meat into a unique selling point, were also recommended.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said global prices for beef and sheepmeat were at record highs and the short to medium term prospects for farmers, processors and the wider industry were strong.

However, nothing in the sector stood still. Within New Zealand, there was an increasing focus on the environment, increased regulations, and challenges to the industry’s social licence to operate.

Outside New Zealand, the global population was growing, the climate changing, trade relationships evolving, and technological disruption was accelerating.

"We need to understand the future trends so that B+LNZ, farmers and the wider industry can be prepared and ensure that our strategy and investment decisions made today will position the industry for a successful future," Mr McIvor said.

The research would inform B+LNZ’s priorities in the coming years, and had already been fed into another major project that the organisation was working on with processing companies aimed at identifying potential new pathways to market.

ANZ’s latest commodity price index showed the meat and fibre index increased 8.8% during November and had gained 29% in the past year. Lamb prices lifted another 2.2% while beef prices lifted 19% in just one month.

The sharp lift in beef prices was driven by China and the United States competing hard for the limited supply of manufactured beef available from New Zealand.

The demand from China was driven by its shortage of protein associated with African Swine Fever decimating its pig population, agriculture economist Susan Kilsby said.

Analysis by the Meat Industry Association showed the value of sheep meat exports to the US — New Zealand’s second most valuable market for red meat — was up 12% for the year ending September 2019 or nearly $3 a kg more than in 2017-18. The volume of sheepmeat exports to the country fell 5%.

The value of beef exports to the US declined by 24% (to $966.2million) for the year ending September 2019, reflecting the growth in demand from China, MIA chief executive Tim Ritchie said.

The rise in value of sheepmeat exports to the US was particularly pleasing and reflected that the country was a "premium market" and especially important for New Zealand’s high-quality high-value middle cuts such as racks, he said.

The trend had continued into October with the average value of sheepmeat exports to the US at $18.97 for October, well above China at $9.32kg, and the UK at $10.54kg. China continued to dominate as New Zealand’s number one export market for sheepmeat and beef.

In BNZ’s latest Rural Wrap, senior economist Doug Steel expected record lamb prices this season. Global lamb markets remained "exceptionally strong".

Drought had affected Australian supply and estimates of fewer lambs in New Zealand would restrict domestic supply.

He saw domestic lamb prices averaging more than 10% above last season’s record levels.

Various trade tensions and Brexit scenarios remained potential disruptions to that positive view, he said.

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