Beef industry representatives and scientists from across Europe met on 1-2 October for a workshop entitled “Sustainable beef quality for Europe – a Workshop for Industry and Scientists”.
The meeting was organised by Dr Linda Farmer of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Northern Ireland together with Dr Laura Nuccilli of the British Embassy in Rome (who sponsored the meeting), Prof Antonella Baldi (University of Milan) and Dr Kees de Roest (Centre for Research on Production of Animals, Italy).
The meeting was held at the University of Milan and was associated with the Milan Food Expo 2015.
The goal of the meeting was to examine the latest European research on beef eating quality, with the overall objective of reviewing the potential for measuring and managing eating quality of beef in Europe.
More than 60 people attended from seven countries, with industry and research both well represented.
The workshop included short presentations on 15 topics of relevance to the quality, competitiveness and sustainability of European beef. These covered topics on the role of eating quality of European beef, the practical application of science by the beef industry to improve quality, sustainability of European beef production and the tools available or in preparation to assist the industry in the delivery of quality beef.
Participants heard insights from Mr Ray Bowe of Musgrave Supermarkets on the factors important for retail beef selection, and from Mr Declan Troy (Teagasc, Ireland) on how science can assist the beef industry to meet its goals. Ms Sarah Bonny highlighted the challenges facing the European beef industry to optimise consistency of quality to the consumer, while Dr Linda Farmer (Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), UK) showed that consumer-perceived eating quality can be related to the composition of the meat.
Some of the successes and challenges of applying research within the beef industry were presented by Dr Jonathan Birnie (Dunbia, Northern Ireland), Prof Vittorio Del’Orto (University of Milan, Italy), Mr Rod Polkinghorne (Birkenwood, Australia) and Mr Jerzy Wierzbicki (Polish Beef Association, Poland).
Dr Birnie emphasised the need for scientists to focus on industry’s practical needs while Mr Polkinghorne showed how the Meat Standards Australia grading model is achieving increasing market acceptance in Australia.
The delegates heard about the environmental, social and economic challenges facing the industry across Europe from Dr Kees de Roest (Centre for Research on Production of Animals, Italy), Prof Nigel Scollan (University of Aberystwyth, UK) and Dr Maeve Henchion (Ireland). Tools in use or under development for delivering quality beef and transferring information through the beef supply chain were presented by Dr Steven Morrison (AFBI), Dr Isabelle Legrand (Institut de l’Elevage, France), Prof Rainer Roehe (Scotland’s Rural College, UK) and Dr Jean-Francois Hocquette (INRA, France).
All participants also participated in two workshops which asked “How can Europe get the best value from its beef?” and “What is needed to ensure sustainability of the European beef industry for the next 10 years?” The answers were reported back to the group by Dr David Farrell and Mr Terence Hagan (AFBI). Kees de Roest (CRPA, Italy) concluded by summarising a number of key points from the workshop, namely that there are a wide variety of beef production systems across Europe, and that eating quality is of prime importance given the high price of beef to the consumer.
However, there are also opportunities for the European beef industry in the expanding global market for beef and this meeting provided an excellent framework for future collaboration.
Given that evidence presented during the meeting indicated that 20% of beef sirloin sampled across Europe was of “unsatisfactory” eating quality, delegates agreed that there is an urgent need to improve consistency of beef eating quality.
AFBI is a lead consortium member in an application for EU funding for a “Thematic Network” (called “EuroBeef”) which is led by the Institut de l’Elevage of France and involves research and industry organisations across Europe. It is hoped that EuroBeef will provide a framework to develop existing knowledge into tools to help the beef industry deliver quality beef sustainably and to build on the success of this meeting.