|Worldwide Lamb Industries See Positive Future
(November 1, 2010) The 18th World Meat Congress was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sep. 27-29, under auspices of the Paris-based International Meat Secretariat (IMS). The thing that distinguished this year’s congress from previous years was the focus on sustainability, not just production and consumption.
President and chief executive officer of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Phil Seng said regarding to the focus on sustainability, “It shows there’s a strong commitment from the United States to look not only at what we do domestically to set the standard for the world, but also to see where the world is and how we can work with other countries to create a better environment for all of us. That’s a very powerful message that’s coming out of this meeting.”
During the opening panelist session of the congress, Craig Morris, deputy administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, addressed the entire assembly stating, “Both demand and supply of all types of meat is on its way up.”
Over the past 20 years, U.S. meat consumption has remained stable he said although beef per capita consumption has decreased while poultry meat consumption has significantly increased.
Morris warns of possible complications for the protein industry due to oil prices and the use of lands for ethanol production. “The increase in oil prices will have an adverse effect on the U.S. balance of trade. At the same time, over the past years, the uses of lands have significantly increased for ethanol corn production. However, ethanol production only uses corn starch and disposes of the rest, which has been found to serve as food for animals. In all cases, what we should look for now is the manner of providing a solution to transportation between regions producing corn and regions producing livestock.”
The IMS Sheepmeat Committee, chaired by Peter Orwick, executive director of the American Sheep Industry Association, also conducted its annual meeting during the opening session.
Delegates from the world’s major sheep producing countries – including Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, United States, United Kingdom, European Union countries, Middle East countries, Russia and China – heard positive reports about progress in production policies to help protect environments and sustain varying production terrains.
Sheep industries other than China have seen flock numbers dramatically decrease.
Australia’s sheep flock fell from a peak of 180 million head to below 85 million, and New Zealand’s fell from 70 million head (in a country of 3 million humans) to near 38 million due to reasons such as drought and producers turning sheep operations into dairy operations.
Wool production in both countries has increasingly switched to fat lamb production for meat.
These livestock production declines have led to supply shortages; consequently, overall market trends have caused most sheep producers worldwide to be enjoying good price returns.
Orwick, who was re-elected as chairman of the committee for another term, says, “The IMS Sheepmeat Committee found nearly universal strong prices for lamb and mutton around the world. Much of the price increase is due to smaller supplies in nearly all producing countries in recent years.”
Addressing the U.S. dollar, Orwick explains that economists at the Congress stated expectations for the U.S. dollar to remain weak, possibly for a period of years, in turn making imports into the United States more expensive.
Addressing the key discussion point of the entire meat congress of sustainability in meat production, Orwick says, “The sheep committee prioritized discussion of the goal to standardize our overall approach to calculating the carbon footprint for sheep meat. Meetings of major sheep producing industries have been conducted to date – with more to be planned in future – in order to finalize a calculation method that all producers can agree to.”
The sheep committee’s discussion of developing a worldwide standard to measure carbon emissions fit directly into the larger discussions of the Congress regarding analysis to date on carbon footprint or life cycle analysis of all livestock and poultry production.
Researchers from many countries referenced the differences between single-stomach animals like poultry and pigs and ruminants such as cattle and sheep. In addition to species, discussions included the differences between grass and forage diets versus grains and concentrates and the impact on emissions.
International meat companies and retailers also spoke of their interest in labels and measurements they could use for consumer education on livestock production.
Mitigation of green house gas production and the larger issue of sustainable livestock production were frequent topics of the presentations as well. Orwick concluded that ASI’s interest will likely focus on all the ways that American sheep production already mitigates the carbon footprint and the number of benefits that sheep have in the United States in sustainable production.