The consumer’s decision to buy meat products forms the basis of and is the initiating event in the subsequent development of the red meat industry value chain. Due to the heterogeneous composition of consumer groups, consumers have widely divergent expectations of the product. Their understanding of “value” is the most important measure, i.e. the quantity and quality of the product relative to other types of food and consumer commodity options. In this value package the consumer requires a reasonable price in a marketing service that is attractive and contains the necessary information. Ultimately the consumer eats meat because he/she enjoys it.
The quantity and quality characteristics of red meat that eventually reach consumers are affected by one or more of the various pre-slaughter and post-slaughter factors. These factors are the genetics, physiology and environment of the animal, the slaughtering process; and finally the storage, processing, marketing and consumption conditions of the meat products.
Quality and value-adding
New knowledge is needed to understand the genetics affecting product development and to improve control and manipulation of physiological systems supporting muscling, growth, metabolism, and mammary function. Research will focus on identifying genes that influence product, factors directing nutrient partitioning toward protein and less fat to improve efficiency, enhanced nutrient composition, and improved meat tenderness in livestock products.
Innovative processes should be created and existing ones adopted to manufacture new or value-added products. Application of these innovative technologies could expand the range and value of livestock products and reduce the ratio of cost of production to market value.
Among the desirable qualities of foods, is the absence of chemical residues, pathogens and spoilage organisms. Research is required for reliable and rapid methods to detect and eliminate pathogens and reduce the risk of chemical residues from drugs, food additives, herbicides, pesticides and environmental contaminants in or on livestock throughout the pre-harvesting and post-harvesting processes. Improved techniques and management procedures to extend product shelf life for both formal and informal markets are urgently needed. Monitoring and service programmes should focus on quality surveys, establishment of sustainable surveillance programmes, meat safety systems and the use of microbial indicators as food safety and quality standards to ensure safe foods.
Information on the nutritional composition of foods and bioavailability of nutrients is essential for food programmes, preventative medicine and dietetics, and the provision of appropriate diets for individuals and communities. Extensive information is required for key, restaurant, fast and indigenous foods. These, in addition, need to be sensory-appraised to determine consumer acceptance and, where applicable, to recommend modification.
Alternative meat products
New technologies to convert processed by-products into useful value-added products are essential. The development of useful products from low-value and waste products such as slaughter offal and manure will increase the overall efficiency of utilisation.
Red meat safety problems can cause either human illness or economic losses and threaten the international competitiveness of agricultural products. Red meat safety, and in particular the control of food-borne pathogens and residues, must therefore be an important concern in research programmes. Red meat safety links with quality/value to support food security and a healthy diet. Studies to maximise quality/value and identify nutritional and medicinal attributes in indigenous and other substances are also important.