global outlook

Recently, I attended the British Cattle Conference - not a normal event for my interests, but one I will look out for in future.

Some of the papers were a bit over my head such as high-density genotyping assays. But the programme was well-balanced, with a section on breeding for market requirements. It had an international flavour, with Ian Hill speaking about breeding developments in Brazil. It was refreshing to hear a debate about sound technical issues, rather than demands for a ban on Brazilian beef imports.

The fact that 64 million hectares of land is still available for cropping in the future without touching the rainforests is quite sobering (the total land cover for Great Britain is 22.6 million hectares). However, we also have to remember that Brazil's internal market is increasingly absorbing domestic production.

We also heard how British consumer attitudes are changing even in top-end retailers like Marks & Spencer, which is finding that red meat sales have been driven by price promotion. Its research also showed that whereas, only two years ago, customers were mainly concerned about farmers' income and animal welfare, now, farmers are off the radar and animal welfare has been joined by "climate change" as the main issues of concern.

The overall message from the conference was to stop being defensive and promote the good things that beef contributes to health and the environment.

While on the subject of positive developments, a new restaurant has opened in Northampton Street an offshoot of a great Argentine beef restaurant that operates in Broadway Market. Oh my, heaven has arrived. The pure breeds used in Argentina provide such succulent beef. Perhaps this can teach us a lesson.

Liz Murphy, Director, International Meat Trade Association