7 March 1997

French spend cash to woo consumers back to meat menu

AN exhibit covering meat production from field to plate – and costing 2mFF (£233,000) – was a focal point at SIA, aimed at boosting meat consumption, particularly of children.

According to Jean-Louis Bignon, director of French meat body Interbev, the exhibit was designed to woo consumers back to meat after the BSE scare. "We are trying to reassure the public about meat – especially beef."

Beef consumption in France plunged by 40% at the height of the crisis, but sales have risen, and the market is only 5% down on Jan 1996 levels, said Mr Bignon. "However, the offal market collapsed, and at worst was down 70% on pre-BSE scare levels."

The exhibit at SIA covered food sources for animals, assurance schemes, which are increasingly popular in France, the nutrition and cooking of meat, and a cultural exhibit, emphasising the part played by meat in French culture.

Despite the popularity of the exhibit, its unlikely that there would be a similar initiative in Britain. Henry Lewis, the MLCs livestock export marketing manager, pointed out that there were few shows in the UK which attracted so many consumers.

"We are also limited by our budget. If the meat industry wants to defend itself it has to dip into its pocket – our funds are limited by the levy we can charge," he declared.