27 Jul 2015

US hungry for beef exports, industry told

3:15 pm on 27 July 2015

Beef exports should continue to fetch good prices in the United States over the next couple of years, Beef and Lamb New Zealand chief economist Andrew Burtt says.

Meanwhile, one food scientist is calling for more effort to create high-value products.

Beef carcasses

Photo: 123RF

Mr Burtt was speaking at the Red Meat Sector Conference today in Nelson where he highlighted that returns from beef exports have increased 22 percent in the year to June.

He said a drought in the US over the last several years had decimated beef production.

"They've now liquidated their cattle herd to the point where the supply impact, combined with the demand impact, meant prices have improved - and the result of that ends up being, ironically, beef production in the US will decline because farmers will retain heifers to boost their production in the next two or three years.

"So, in the short term, production declines there, which provides an even better opportunity for us."

Mr Burtt said, even though the price of a pound of chicken and a pound of pork combined was cheaper than a pound of beef in the US, there was still a strong appetite for mince.

"Taco meat is a growing segment there in terms of the Hispanic population in the US, as well as those who like to consume something a bit different from a burger."

Call to move away from raw meat

Meanwhile, Massey University food scientist Richard Archer has said he would like to see the day when New Zealand no longer exports raw, red meat but turns it into higher value food products.

The food technology professor told Federated Farmers' recent national conference that the meat industry does a brilliant job processing red meat through to its chilled and frozen stages.

But he said it had done a terrible job of adding value to meat and the opportunity was there for the development of an industry exporting New Zealand delicatessen products.

"We can't really eat raw meat; it's just a raw material. We haven't yet turned that raw material into proper food," he said.

"The wine industry has taught us how to do it because there are wine industries all across Europe. Different vines, different styles, different ways of doing it."

He said it should be possible to develop an industry in New Zealand which would buy red meat and turn it into "good deli products for the world".

"As soon as they were in there and got a bit of traction they would be changing the demands for the style of meats that are going in," he said.

"That would be a great future if we could do it. I'd love to see the day when none of our meat goes offshore as red meat; it all goes offshore as food."

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