Carla Suárez

Joint Industry Efforts to Position the Meat Industry

Mon, 04/01/2019 - 10:16

For meat production to grow, meat protein consumption must also increase, says Carla Suárez, President of COMECARNE. “The main objective of COMECARNE is to promote the consumption of meat protein; if consumption grows, the whole chain grows.”
COMECARNE, an association of meat producers with 89 affiliates, is divided in two groups: partners and associates. “Partners transform the meat at the different levels of the production chain, while associates provide us with the necessary products for this transformation,” says Suárez. At first, the chamber was only conformed by packaging companies but COMECARNE found there was more value in having a unified chamber rather than just representing a few members of the chain. “Over time, we have incorporated companies from different parts of the value chain and today COMECARNE is the leading organization in the sector.”
The association’s objective is to expand meat protein consumption in Mexico but Suárez says there is a long way to go, considering Mexicans are not among the biggest consumers of this type of protein. In Latin America, Argentina leads in consumption of bovine meat with 56kg per capita in 2017, while Mexico is at 14.8kg. When it comes to pork consumption, Europeans led the way at 40kg per capita, while Mexico records consumption of 19kg per capita. With chicken, Asian consumers take the lead with Malaysia having the most consumption of this type of protein, consuming around 55.8kg per capita, followed by the US at 47.7kg per capita and Mexico at 33.3kg.
According to Suárez, there are challenges to convince Mexican consumers to increase their intake of meat protein, including negative news or perceptions that sometimes surround these products. However, COMECARNE makes a significant effort to ensure the safety of meat and to communicate this to consumers. “All our products are safe and healthy. Unfortunately, we do not always properly highlight that meat protein is essential,” she says. “All alimentary guides mention the importance of consuming animal-origin protein for a healthy and balanced diet.”
Another issue for COMECARNE is that meat protein consumption is sometimes hard given the budget families have available. “We are working to offer meat protein for every budget, whether people get it from sausages, chicken or from rib-eye steaks. Packaged meats are accessible and play a central role in the Mexican diet,” says Suárez. She adds that it is imperative for the industry to have cost-efficient processes. “We must ensure that our partners remain competitive so they can offer their products at a competitive price.”
Suárez highlights five key points the industry follows to improve its competitiveness levels: available and competitive inputs, more sources of international supply, regulations, technology and joint efforts between the private sector and academia. To ensure availability of competitive products, COMECARNE works alongside pig farmers, poultry farmers and cattle feeders to boost the availability of national inputs. “COMECARNE wants all parties involved to understand that we work as part of the same chain.” This goes hand in hand with opening up to more international sources. “If we limit international sources, the product will become more expensive,” says Suárez. COMECARNE is in constant communication with the authorities to broaden the variety of imports with the necessary sanitary authorizations. “COMECARNE works with the authorities and the rest of the production chain to ensure that existing regulations do not inhibit the growth and competitiveness of the sector,” she says.
Much like any other industry in the country, technology has become increasingly important to remain competitive and cost-efficient. The implementation of Industry 4.0 elements is an area where Mexico has a significant development opportunity, according to Suárez. “Industry 4.0 is latching on to the meat industry and it is increasingly common to see meat processing plants with automation technology.” COMECARNE acts as a liaison between producers and technology providers and these efforts are combined with a close relationship with academia. “We want these joint efforts to generate research and knowledge transfer through the entire meat protein chain,” she says.