UK - The opportunities for the beef and lamb sector of a free trade agreement between the European Union and United States was the focus of an industry knowledge exchange trip earlier this month.
Christine Walsh, EBLEX supply chain development manager, represents Britain on the Young European Meat Committee (YEMCO) and was among 25 European delegates to take part in the week-long visit.
It included visits to lamb and beef plants and retail outlets in Denver with delegates getting a first-hand look at how meat is sourced from local supply chains in high volumes, the advanced use of breeding genetics as well as growth hormones, and the microbiological requirements that could be imposed on our meat if the current trade talks result in us being able to export product to the US.
The US Meat Export Federation also outlined how meat industry is supported domestically, commercially and scientifically, and the work undertaken to back its export work, which compared favourably to how EBLEX supports the beef and sheep meat production, processing and marketing in England.
Ms Walsh said: “Although it was a busy programme, the visit covered many aspects of the meat supply chain in depth.
“It was particularly useful to compare and contrast how things are done in the US in comparison to the approaches taken in Europe.
“The sheer scale of their production and processing plants introduced many benefits in the form of economies of scale. However, it also meant management and process control was vital to ensuring safe food production.
“The other eye-opener was the move towards fatter animals. Fat is deposited first onto the mesentery and lastly as intramuscular or marbling. Marbled meat is hugely important to meat palatability.
“Americans believed that their meat had become too lean which had detracted from the quality.
“As a result, the US industry is undergoing a huge change and reversing the trend for reduced fat. The marbled fat acts like holes in a Swiss cheese, helping when cooking the meat, protecting it from high temperatures and making the meat tender and juicier.
“As with any visit of this type, there were some areas where we felt the US excelled and others where we felt we are ahead of the game. The important point is that it provided the opportunity for us to share new learning and best practice.
“We returned with a few extra pounds and plenty of food for thought on how certain US approaches to supply chain development could be implemented here to help our efforts in delivering greater profitability and sustainability in our sector.
“There were several ideas that EBLEX will look to include in their offering to the red meat processing sectors to simplify the process, improve efficiency and reduce costs.”
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