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Healthy and sustainable, two trends in the meat sector

16 May 2019

The meat sector has listened carefully to consumer demand and has adopted the trend towards healthier and more sustainable products. This tide is affecting the food sector in general, including the meat segment.

This is all the more relevant given the appearance of voices arguing for lowering meat consumption, although their impact on sales is not yet clear. Whatever the case may be, consumer trends are changing and the sector has made its move and is transforming all phases of the production chain.

The effects are probably most noticeable in livestock farming, with projects addressing animal breeding and feeding methods. Among the most recent of them that have been announced are the partnership between Vall Companys and the Institute of Agri-Food Research and Technology (IRTA) which is seeking to strengthen scientific-technical relationships in all links of the chain, from nutrition, to health and wellness.

Initiatives are under way to breed animals without antibiotics, examples of which are those being carried out by Carrefour, which, in 2018, introduced chickens produced without these substances and Antibiotic-Free sausages by Airesano Foods (Grupo Tervalis). It comes as no surprise, then, that the Agricultural Production Health Area of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has noted a 14% fall in the use of antibiotics, and is making efforts to stamp out misuse through farm and fodder inspections.

Animal welfare certifications are on the rise

There is also growing interest in animal welfare. According to a recent study by Aecoc ShopperView on purchasing habits, 22% of consumers said they had reduced their meat consumption due to animal welfare concerns, while 15% did so on ecological grounds. In this regard, there has been some activity in terms of certification in this area, such as Costa Food Meat's pork and ready-made certification, including 'Casademont' and 'Villar', both members of the holding, as well as beef company Dehesa Grande.

Speaking of beef, R&D projects have also been carried out during the breeding stage to enhance the nutritional benefits of the meat, such as those carried out by Miguel Vergara that have led to the launches of high-protein 'Blonda' and 'NaturityCLA', which contains more polyunsaturated fatty acid precursors. The company is targeting production towards different consumer profiles.

Likewise, ElPozo has just announced the launch of a research project, which will be completed in 2020, carried out jointly with the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA-CSIC) and the Catholic University of San Antonio de Murcia (UCAM), the purpose of which is to prove that consumption of cured ham leads to cardiovascular benefits by controlling blood pressure and carbohydrate and cholesterol metabolism in humans. This is an area with greater room for improvement in the processing phase, as opposed to fresh meats where processing is restricted to butchering and filleting.

During the last year, Alimarket has noticed several new products going deeper into this health vector. Noel Alimentaria, an innovative company that has even diversified into a vegan line, already has a range of processed meats that it has called 'Noel Zero', which is additive-free, and is also producing a turkey breast with kale, and another with broccoli. There is also a trend to apply traditional preparation methods to other types of raw ingredients as is the case of Boadas 1880 and its recently launched range of cured turkey, and Apis's first deli chicken range. Meanwhile, Embutidos Domingo Ortiz Moreno is making chorizo with quinoa and seaweed, while adding to its 'Clean Label' products with offerings like the 'Campofrío Libre' family.

The pork sector responds to criticism

The pork market has been one of the most severely attacked, and is therefore one of the most active in this transformation. Interprofessional Interporc has taken part in several projects, such as presenting research studies to promote the healthy aspects of meat products, participating in workshops aimed at the general public on healthy cooking for children and adults, and participating in scientific symposia that support the health benefits of eating meat.

One of its objectives is to reduce the environmental footprint of its activity. According to Alberto Herranz, director of Interporc, in recent years, the sector has succeeded in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 22% and has cut the use of water by 30% per kilo of meat produced. It has also implemented a new slurry management regulation that reduces the nitrates applied directly to the ground, through burial, by 30%.

This is a shared goal, since these types of initiatives can be found throughout the meat sector, with measures that also include improving the composition of meat. Sector association Anice has announced the objective to reduce salt in meat products by up to 16%, sugar by 10% and fat by 5%. These efforts are accompanied by a new communication policy to provide consumers with correct, effective information about the benefits of eating meat to quieten the voices insisting that we need to eat less.