Cape Town, South Africa—Last week marked the 2008 International Meat Secretariat World Meat Congress. Meat scientists and industry experts from across the world gathered to discuss the hot topics in the meat industry including: livestock production and research, improving livestock health and meat safety, global meat trade and consumer trends.

The conference has featured two presentations by U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) staff. On Monday, Joel Haggard, senior vice president for the Asia Pacific region, provided attendees with an update on pork trade in Asia, with specific focus on the factors driving the recent surge in pork exports to China. In the first half of 2008, U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports to Hong Kong/China increased 324% in volume and 415% in value during the same period last year. These 2008 exports were valued at nearly $440 million and accounted for about 6% of all U.S. pork production.

USMEF Manager of Research and Analysis Erin Daley spoke on major global trends in beef and pork consumption, and the implications these trends will have on international trade. Daley said growth in personal income and purchasing power are helping drive demand for red-meat protein. “But,” she emphasized, “that a very high percentage of the growth in the world’s population and income is occurring in developing countries.

“Over the next 20 years, 80% of the world’s population growth will occur in those countries least capable of supporting it — politically, environmentally and economically,” she said. “Between 2005 and 2050, nine countries are expected to account for nearly half of the world’s population growth. Of these nine, the United States is the only developed country.”

Daley noted that while these trends could present tremendous opportunities for meat-exporting nations, trade barriers continue to be a major obstacle.

“With World Trade Organization talks stalled for now, we’ll continue to see high tariffs in many countries,” she said. “That can hinder growth in consumption in areas that are not self-sufficient in their meat production.”