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The meat sector is supporting R&D and Animal Welfare projects

Advances in animal welfare are among the priorities for the meat sector and, for this reason, different R&D projects on all species have proliferated in recent years. This is a subject that is considered essential and even the spread of the Covid-19 virus is not going to remove it from the agendas of the main companies.

06 Jul 2020

This has meant that both inter-professional associations and production companies, with the support of universities and research centres, have set to work to implement new animal welfare plans. Going even further, the distribution chains themselves have also made a move to promote this type of product on their shelves.

Other subjects beyond animal welfare being studied relate to optimising resources and improving productivity, increasing quality and improving preservation. These are some of the sector's main concerns, in addition to different aspects related to packaging, where its reduction is the main focus.

In recent years, the meat sector has focused on undertaking different R&D projects to improve its product range and adapt it to current final-consumer demands. However, the spread of the Covid-19 virus in our country has hit all economic sectors and is delaying most companies' projects and investments.

It remains to be seen, in the coming months, how the meat operators' plans will adapt to the new situation. This means that some R&D projects may be delayed, cancelled or share the stage with new ones that aim to reduce the risks of contagion, in case this situation continues or there are new outbreaks in the future.

Be that as it may, the focal points of research thus far - packaging, improvements in hygiene and preservation, etc. - will remain on meat companies' agendas, and among them animal welfare, as in recent years, will feature prominently.

A clear reflection of how customers' concerns about this issue are being reflected in the action taken by the sector is the creation of the "Certified Animal Welfare" seal by the inter-professional associations in the animal production sector. Through this initiative, the aim is to recognise good practices in this respect throughout the animal's life cycle. Created by Interporc, it has also seen involvement from inter-professional associations for Iberian pork (Asici), rabbit (Intercun), sheep and goat (Interovic), chicken (Propollo) and beef (Provacuno).

In addition, at the individual level, different initiatives to make progress in this field can be found in the meat sector. Companies such as Campofrío, El Pozo, Costa Food Group and Casa Tarradellas, among others, have announced new certifications on their own farms or on those of their closest partners to make progress with this production model.

If we go even further, we also find movements in the rest of the supply chain and not only among livestock farmers and companies in the meat industry. The large retailers have also taken action and announced progress in this area. To give a couple of examples, we have the case of Carrefour in France, which announced an independent audit of all the slaughterhouses that supply its own-brands and the installation of cameras to control the procedure directly. Likewise, Lidl, which has already carried out animal welfare projects in the eggs and fresh milk areas, has announced that the next advance in this direction involves applying these measures to its meat products.

But, as we said, not all R&D projects are focused on animal welfare. There are also improvements being made in raw materials and in process optimisation that are being applied throughout the meat sector. The high-tech incubator Porcinnova gave the green light to eight startup and entrepreneur projects in 2019 with very varied objectives, from biotechnology to blockchain and the circular economy. Similarly, companies such as Uvesa, Miguel Vergara, Splendid Foods and El Pozo have been especially active in recent years undertaking different studies with the aim of applying improvements to their catalogues.

To conclude, it cannot be overlooked that the trend towards animal welfare is aligned with a broader concept of improvement in and respect for the environment that has also been reflected in the meat sector in other types of investments and packaging reduction projects, the circular economy and the reduction of emissions. Within this last area we can highlight the example of the initiative from Porgaporcs and Ecobiogás based on a plant to recover nutrients from slurry with duckweed cultures, within the European 'Life Lemna' plan. All with the aim of minimising the impact of livestock and industrial activity on the planet.