Forum Weighs Declining Meat Consumption Trends
Increasing demand for Estonian pork from abroad is pricing Estonians out of the meat market, say some producers, although the more lucrative foreign business may also help offer slightly lower domestic prices.
The annual meat producers' forum held in Tartu on Tuesday centered on the major trend that while worldwide meat consumption is growing, per capita volumes consumed in Estonia have shrunk for five years running.
That goes for both pork and beef, although Estonian farms have more cattle and pigs than ever.
International consumption is expected to continue to grow in years to come as more of Asia also moves to eating meat daily.
Einar Jakobi of Kõpsta farm is among those who say there is a good balance: "If we were able to sell all of our meat on domestic markets, we wouldn't get such a good price. Thanks to the fact that we export, we're able to keep the price at home stable," he said.
But producers also complain that Estonian consumers are favoring cheaper foreign meat.
Food scientists like Lembit Lepasalu of the University of Life Sciences maintain that domestic meat is better.
"Time is the worst factor when we're talking about fresh meat, as it destroys meat quality. In any case, if it is made in Estonia, certain transport operations are skipped, to say nothing of the philosophical issue involved in supporting the local industry."
Roomet Sõrmus, chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce, said consumers also run less risk of being cheated. Estonia was in fact grazed by the horse meat scandal, but only minute quantities of equine flesh was found among the products of one southern Estonian producer.