Thoughts on the 21st World Meat Congress

09 Dec 2016

The International Meat Secretariats’ (IMS) much-anticipated World Meat Congress (WMC) was held in Uruguay on November 8 and 9 in Punta del Este. There was a high attendance level, with both delegates and international and national media participation surpassing expectations.


With representatives from 36 countries, the congress - besides its academic content – also generates value in building networking links with delegates from all over the world and, in some cases, helps build lasting friendships.


The aim of WMC 2016 was to provoke debates on issues of interest to the international meat sector in an increasingly uncertain and changing world, and listening to different points of view and opinions to begin building consensus. Challenges are immense and the meat sector needs to stand together.


As host country, Uruguay presented two activities prior to the WMC: a Regional Meat Congress in 2003 and the II Economics IMS Workshop in 2010, with 50 economic experts specialized in meat from Brazil, Argentina, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, China, France, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Russia, and Uruguay in attendance.


Consumers are increasingly concerned about animal welfare, care and health. Animal rights are not the only focus, but also the monitoring mechanisms of production systems to prevent the emergence of diseases that have a negative economic impact or that pose a threat to human health at a regional and global scale. The protection of animals as well as animal and human health concerns are strong motivations for the development of private standards that break down the concept of political or economic borders.


Consumer confidence in meat production systems and meat products has been eroded in recent years by episodes of tarnishing and contamination. The media and consumers accuse the global meat sector of the negative effects on health and consumer confidence without making any significant distinction. It seems the industry itself should establish mechanisms to recompose consumer confidence levels, identifying the causes for confidence erosion and using the necessary instruments to rebuild it.


In other news, the Progressive Beef Production conference that was co-hosted by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) for Northern Ireland, the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU), highlighted the many opportunities that exist for red meat producers and exporters in a post-Brexit world.

WMC 2016 participants

It is expected that UK supermarkets will remain committed to paying a high price for beef, provided it is produced from animals that are both born and reared in the United Kingdom. However, this is only the starting point: retailers will want Farm Quality Assurance as a confirmation. In this scenario, it is now envisaged that supermarkets will want other quality criteria included. Amongst these is an ever-stronger demand for higher on-farm welfare standards and taste as a key determinant of meat quality. The latter point is already a reality in countries such as the United States.