Guest Post: The future still looks bright for red meat

Kit Arkwright
Kit Arkwright.

The future still looks bright for red meat, despite the media narrative, writes Kit Arkwright.

I received a press release the other day which caught my eye… the headline read ‘Global Processed Red Meat Market to Grow by US$226.37bn by 2024’. That’s a truly astonishing number given two weeks ago we were told by RethinkX – a San Francisco-based think tank – that the ‘cow’ would be virtually obsolete by 2035. These diametrically opposed forecasts seem to paint two very different futures for the state of our industry.

There is no doubt that disruption has arrived and with more to come from some very smart and intuitive people who have set their minds on creating a new global food production system. Whether RethinkX’s vision has any validity is yet to be seen, but it’s always worth remembering to take a step back and gain some perspective – particularly when the industry is so entrenched in the cultural fabric of New Zealand.

Research on Kiwi consumers from Colmar Brunton in May this year points to plenty of positives for us to hang our hats on. Nine out of ten Kiwis choose to eat meat. So, despite all the noise out there discussing what and how much we eat, 4.3 million people make the decision to consume meat. Over 80 percent of Kiwis consider red meat as easy to cook, versatile and tasty. So even though there are many great protein options out there for people to choose from, there is still strong recognition for the values that underpin the eating experience of meat.

Just today our press office is getting calls about the latest piece of ‘research’ headed by Food Frontier – an Australian plant-based think tank – who ran a release with the headline ‘1-In-3 New Zealanders Eating Less Or No Meat’. Based on that, surely we’re all doomed? Well when you drill down into it, their research stated 31 percent of Kiwis are ‘flexitarians’ or ‘meat reducers’ described as eating meat one to four times a week – that’s in line with Ministry of Health guidelines, so what’s the big deal? It also stated just three percent are either vegan or vegetarian. Three percent! Surely that’s what the story should be about, only three percent of Kiwis don’t eat meat?

The consistent standard our industry has been delivering for decades has, however, become the norm, and an upwardly mobile, globally connected generation of Kiwis is demanding more. That’s who these alternative proteins are catering to, bringing out new products to cater for this conscientious consumer.

What is inspiring to see is the variety of approaches meat companies in New Zealand are taking to add value and carve out their version of what tomorrow’s ‘norm’ will look like. As a Brit abroad, it provides me the perfect analogy to describe what Kiwi ingenuity is all about – it encompasses the ‘punch-above-our-weight’ mentality that sums up New Zealand life.

Despite what the media narrative might suggest, the future looks bright for the red meat industry here in Aotearoa.

Kit Arkwright is marketing manager for Beef + Lamb NZ Inc, the red meat sector’s domestic promotion body based in Auckland. This Guest Post has been provided by B+LNZ, as part of its MeatExportNZ supporter package.

Updated 29 October: Slight changes to the second para by the writer.

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