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How the meat Industry is adapting to the pandemic

21st May 2020

Mike Whittemore, Head of Food & Butchery, gives his overview of the current position facing the meat industry.

The meat industry along with many others has had to adopt to these unprecedented times. It has survived hard times in the past – the BSE crisis in 1996 along with Foot & Mouth outbreaks in 2001 and 2007. The BSE Crisis in the 90’s had a huge impact on the industry, beef sales slumped by 40%, nearly 4.5 million cattle where culled and beef exports were banned for 10 years.  The 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak was estimated to cost the industry around 8 Billion Pounds.

The retail sector is experiencing buoyant sales especially through the independent butcher sector. However, this is offset by the loss of business in supplying the hospitality and catering sector, the specialist catering butcher sector being the hardest hit.

The issue of carcass balance is always one where the industry has had to act to clear stocks, so nothing new there. However, the pandemic has brought this to the forefront with steak meats in abundant supply (normally this being the staple item bought by the catering sector) resulting in the major retailers having steak lines on continued sales promotion. Roasting meats similarly are struggling and as we approach the BBQ season the situation is likely to become more pronounced. Mince sales are ‘through the roof’ proving this to be the ‘go-to’ staple diet item when feeding families in the home.

Lamb sales suffered due to the Easter festive period being cancelled due to lockdown, sales are down 40% year-on-year. Pork fared better with processed lines buoyant, especially sausage sales.

As ever the industry will look for innovative ways to address the issues it faces.

We at Crosby Management training are gearing ourselves up to train the next generation of meat professionals. We will hopefully be back to normal (whatever that may look like) soon.