BMPA points to challenging year for meat industry

“Interesting and challenging” was how Andrew Simpson, president of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), described the industry this year.

Speaking at the BMPA conference yesterday, Simpson told attendees that issues discussed last year, such as the DSM/MSM affair, struggling processors and manufacturers, and tight margins were all still at the fore of the industry. “And now we have the horsemeat issue,” he added.

“The horsemeat issue has been a serious set-back for our industry,” he said, noting that it had not been a food safety issue and was “confined to a comparatively limited number of supply chains and product lines”. But he explained that it had had an impact on consumer confidence.

The extent of this impact was outlined by Which? chief policy advisor Sue Davies, who compared consumers’ opinions on meat previous to the horsemeat scandal and then after it. She explained that figures from a survey showed that consumers in October last year showed how “price dominated people’s choices”, as well as quality and taste.

“People said [in October 2012] they were buying more meat from discount supermarkets and discount brands,” she told attendees. However, referring to a survey carried out after the horsemeat issue in February this year, she said: “Consumer trust in the industry had dipped by a quarter, and more than half said they had changed their shopping habits.

“People are buying less processed meat products. More people (23%) are buying from their butcher and 50% of people said they were looking for better-quality meat.”

Davies also highlighted that a whopping 42% of consumers asked thought blame for the horsemeat scandal lay with the meat suppliers, while 35% said it was food manufacturers who were to blame.

However, Simpson said the industry in the UK had acted well throughout the scandal and were co-operative – a point made by Food Standards Agency (FSA) chief executive Catherine Brown in her speech.

Brown said: “I have been asked for my assessment how well I think the meat industry is meeting its responsibilities. Despite the problems generated by the horsemeat incident the response from the meat industry – responsible businesses - has been positive and proactive.”