The livestock industry needs to think more carefully about animal health and increasing consumer interest in red meat if it is to continue to benefit from current high prices.
Nick Allen, EBLEX sector director, said there was a degree of stability in the industry which had not been seen for some years.
A forecast decline in beef coming into the European market meant record cattle prices were likely to remain, while high demand for European sheepmeat meant there was an optimistic outlook for the sector over the next few years.
Despite the positive short-term future, Mr Allen said the industry could not afford to be complacent.
“There are things out there that could change the whole view of the industry within five years,” he told the EBLEX annual conference in Warwickshire on Wednesday (2 November).
“We have got to keep the consumer buying meat. Sticking the Union Jack on packaging isn’t enough – we have to keep improving our assurance standards so people know British meat can be trusted and is worth buying.”
Mr Allen said the indications were that the next three to five years would offer a fair amount of stability for livestock farmers, but the industry had to protect itself against future shocks.
“If you look at what happened in the past to upset the markets, it’s been disease,” he told delegates.
“Foot-and-mouth and bluetongue have devastated the industry, so we really need to look at animal health issues to protect our gains.”
He said the industry had to look at new markets and offering differentiated products, as well as looking to improve efficiencies.
“We can’t think higher prices will solve our problems and bring everyone back into profitability,” he added.
“We have to think about efficiencies and ways to maximise the carcass.
“We also need to really get to grips with the halal market – there are two million Muslims in the UK and six million non-Muslim halal meat eaters, so the opportunity is huge.”