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Пятница, 08 Июня 2012 00:00

Tough Times for Fresh Beef Избранное


On a global level, beef and veal registered the weakest volume growth of all fresh meat categories in 2011 of just 1%. Over the 2006-2011 review period, beef and veal floundered at the bottom of the growth performance chart three times. During this period, the category registered an overall increase of just 7%, compared to poultry's 16%. And not only did poultry display much more dynamism, it also surpassed sales of beef and veal in volume terms by a long way. In 2011, fresh meat volumes of beef and veal amounted to just below 48 million tonnes, while poultry weighed in at 79 million tonnes.

Although, from a global point of view, beef and veal just about managed to maintain positive growth, quite significant ongoing rates of decline have been observed, particularly since the onset of the recession. For example, over 2008-2011, the category's volumes fell by 11% in Spain, 10% in Russia, 9% in New Zealand and Italy and 7% in the US.

Beef hit by economy drive

As far as consumers are concerned, beef is a highly desirable type of meat (except for in India where it tends to be rejected on religious grounds), so a sudden dislike is not the reason why consumers are turning away from the category. There are three factors which have precipitated this sea change, the first being the global economic crisis which has slashed grocery shopping budgets across the world's beef-loving regions where consumption is traditionally very high, such as North America and Western Europe.

The second factor, which hugely compounds the first, is rampant price increases for animal feed, partly driven by the rising demand for bio fuels. The feed conversion ratio (ie of feed to muscle meat) in cattle is very poor when compared to other food animals. For poultry, 2lbs of feed are turned into 1lb of flesh, while for cattle the ratio is around 7:1.

Thirdly, health and environmental concerns have gone some way towards dampening the popularity of beef, particularly in those markets where consumption has always been high, such as the US. This has resulted in a notable shift from beef and veal to poultry meat, which is not only cheaper but also benefits from the common perception that it is lower in saturated fat and therefore healthier, as well as being more environmentally sustainable.
The countries where the shift away from beef towards poultry was at its most pronounced over the review period were Italy, Belgium, Spain, New Zealand and South Africa.

Russia and Spain struggling with production

As elsewhere, beef and veal are traditionally popular meat types in Russia. However, the Russian market is also following the global trend towards the gradual replacement of red meat by poultry and pork. Euromonitor International's fresh food data spanning the 2006-2011 review period show that fresh beef and veal consumption in Russia has fallen for a third consecutive year, a pattern initiated, needless to say, by the global economic crisis. Official government statistics show that the price of boneless beef almost doubled during 2005 and 2011, rising by a whopping 25% between late 2010 and the end of 2011.

One of the most significant problems hampering the country's beef production is the lack of dedicated facilities. Most beef in Russia is derived from dairy farms and small farmers, and hence sourced from dairy breeds rather than animals reared primarily for their meat.

As part of the ongoing government drive to make Russia self-sufficient in meat production, a number of federal and regional programmes were initiated in 2009, including cheap and long-term credits given to farmers for the purchase of pedigree cattle bred specifically for meat. Despite these measures, government statistics illustrate that beef production has actually been falling consistently over the past few years, declining from 1.9 million tonnes in 2006 to 1.5 million tonnes in 2011.

In an effort to reverse this downward slide, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov stated at a meeting of the Presidential Council for priority national projects and demographic policy in April 2012 that the government was considering taking additional measures to boost national beef production, including a return to several old Soviet Union policies geared towards supporting farmers. He also said that, in order to achieve the government's objective of beef self-sufficiency by 2018, a minimum of 10 large-scale production facilities would need to be constructed, churning out a combined 1.3 million tonnes annually. Whether there is sufficient commitment for the required number of facilities to be built is not yet clear.

By Anastasia Alieva, Head of Fresh Food Research at Euromonitor International

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