“There are many clichés associated with meat consumption, from abuse of antibiotics to food wastage and alleged environmental unsustainability. It has become a priority to inform people that it in most cases such information is not very correct or even entirely wrong.” So says François Tomei, Director of Assocarni, the National Meat Production and Trade Association who, speaking with Eurocarne Post, stressed the importance of initiatives emphasising the importance of this food in everyone’s diet and remarked on current trends in the food industry.
Dr. Tomei. What is the current status as regards meat consumption in Italy and the rest of the world?
“Italy is experiencing a particularly difficult time in this field and the food sector as a whole in general. People are cutting back even on food. For example, the Italian beef industry ensures excellent products but high production costs and has been significantly influenced by the fall in consumer spending. Distribution chains procure even fewer products of Italian origin, preferring Polish and Irish meat in view of lower costs. We will probably never recover the same levels of meat consumption as seen until a decade ago but we can certainly stop this decline by streamlining the production network and providing consumers with the right information.”
As an association, what recent action have you undertaken?
“Our ‘Sustainable Meat' project falls into this context, which we are implementing together with Assica and Unaitalia. It highlights the point of view of producers on important topics such as sustainability, nutrition and the economic and social value of the livestock sector. We engaged a group of independent experts to demonstrate that meat is not only not harmful but actually contains vital nutrients and, as part of a balanced diet, the average impact of meat turns out to be equal to that of other products, such as fruit and vegetables. Not only. We also managed to tackle a series of clichés and to explain the real issues.”
“It emerged how the increase in certain chronic diseases such as diabetes, overweight, obesity and hypertension, should be attributed to lifestyles, sedentary attitudes and high calorie foods (rich in sugars and fats) rather than the consumption of meat products. We show that there is no correlation between the occurrence of these diseases and meat consumption. If anything, they may arise from the cooking method. Food and lifestyle education are vital.”
A concern shared by many consumers involves the use of hormones and antibiotics. What can you say about this matter?
“The former have been banned for some time throughout the European Union, while the latter are only permitted under strict supervision of veterinarians. It must be explained that there is no unlimited access to such drugs, without overlooking so-called withdrawal periods: If an animal has been treated pharmacologically, legislation prescribes a reasonable period before slaughter is allowed to avoid any trace of the drug(s) administered. The Ministry of Health will continue its investigations to keep check of any illegal treatments: in 2013, for example, the positive response found came to just 0.15%. So, we can proudly say that the hormone fairy tale is a myth that must be dispelled not only because the meat industry says so but because official data say so, which in any case are better than the European average.”
There is also the question of waste…
“The meat sector is one of the most virtuous in the food industry. Everything that is not edible in the production process is reused in other sectors, such as leather in fashion, furnishings or automotive fields, biomedical and pharmaceutical sectors, not to mention the fat used in the cosmetic sector. In short, nothing is ever wasted, be it pigs or cattle! Inasmuch, it may be a production model, even with a view to Expo 2015, helping to ensure the economic and environmental sustainability of the sector in a scenario in which increased demand for food by the world population will expand spectacularly by 2050.”
Source: Eurocarne Outlook