A UFU delegation from the beef and lamb, hill farming, pigs, poultry and dairy committees recently attended the bi-annual Anuga trade show in Cologne, Germany, writes Elliott Bell, Beef, Sheep and Hill Farming Policy Officer.
Anuga is the largest food trade show in the world, with over 7,000 exhibitors from 100 different countries.
Much of our time was spent marvelling at the selection of produce in the meat halls. From the Australian farmer selling beef from his herd of 500,000 Wagyu cattle to the Indian processor selling his halal slaughtered Buffalo, the Brazilian offering of 42 million slaughter fit cattle per year and the Spanish butchers marketing their aged seven year old cured meat.
As observers it was very noticeable that a lot of these countries are selling the same image – grass fed, clean, green, sustainable food production. On the face of it you could almost forgive a new customer for not seeing much difference between the standards of food production in Argentina and those of the British Isles, such is the marketing power of these large food exporting nations. What you can be sure of is that there is a significant difference in price, with beef in some of these countries trading at half the price of ours.
As ever though with marketing, the devil is in the detail. While we quite rightly bemoan some of the regulations we have to adhere to in Northern Ireland, a day at Anuga will make you realise that these are actually very important. While sometimes unnecessarily gold plated by DARD, the rigorous checks we have on animal diseases, traceability and food safety are in many ways crucial if we want to claim a unique point of difference and a higher price than these nations that produce vast quantities of cheap commodity beef.
While it was interesting to observe and interact with our global competitors, the visit also gave us the opportunity to see how UK and in particular NI produce was being promoted. Invest NI had a respectable presence in the meat and fine foods hall’s alongside AHDB, Quality Meat Scotland and Bord Bia. While the £1m Vion stand overshadowed just about every other stand there, it was nevertheless pleasing to see Northern Ireland in amongst them all with a healthy flow of new and existing customers.