Rising global meat consumption: New Zealand rides the wave

by | May 16, 2022 | News

New Zealand’s red meat sector has continued to enjoy its volume down, prices upward trajectory of the past few months, with exports now exceeding $3 billion during the first quarter of 2022. This is despite a drop in volumes due to ongoing global supply chain and pandemic challenges.

Total exports for the quarter totalled $3.1 billion, a 17 per cent increase on the same period in 2021, the Meat Industry Association reported today. Red meat exports during March were worth $1.15 billion, representing an 11 per cent increase on March 2021.

In fact, exports to most markets increased, apart from China, which dropped one per cent to $1.2 billion. The value of exports to China dropped 17 per cent to $384m during March, but nearly all other major markets saw an increase. Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, said “The increase in exports to markets other than China, including good volumes to Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, demonstrates how agile New Zealand exporters are. Our companies have sound strategies in place to manage different markets depending on the global conditions.”

For all the excitement about meat alternatives, it seems there’s still plenty of sizzle in the local meat industry. And the increased earnings fit with projected increases in meat consumption globally.

Global meat eating trends

Meat consumption is expected to continue increasing by 1.7 percent per year through 2022, according to World Population review. Today, Argentina eats the most beef and veal, about 39.9 kilograms per person every year. The 27 countries of the European Union and China eat the most pork, about 35.5 and 30.4 kilograms per capita, respectively. Israeleats the most poultry, at 64.9 kilograms per capita annually. Kazakhstan eats the most sheep, at 8.5 kilograms per person every year.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), between 1990 and 2009, aggregate global meat consumption increased by almost 60 percent and per capita consumption by almost 25 percent.

This is all despite the backdrop of concern raised by scientists about the environmental impact of meat consumption, since meat production — especially on an industrial scale as is practiced in many countries — contributes to soil erosion through overgrazing, expanding carbon-based fuel consumption, and overuse of water.

Local sector challenges

Despite global demand and prices remaining strong, Karapeeva said the sector was seeing the impact of supply chain disruptions and significant processing constraints in New Zealand. “The slow-down in meat exports to China was not New Zealand-specific, as Chinese import data shows that there was a drop in the volume of all meat imports into China in March, probably reflecting the impact of the various lock-downs and port disruptions.”Sheepmeat to China was down by 46 per cent and beef by seven per cent. However, beef exports to China still represented the third highest March volume.

The chronic labour shortages in New Zealand continue to be a problem with cattle processing down 11 per cent during the first quarter and sheep processing by 16 per cent compared to 2021, however processing capacity has since improved, she said. Processors are also having to ensure they align livestock volumes at plants with their ability to ship products to markets in the face of the widespread ports congestion, container availability issues and vessel delays.

These challenges have contributed to a drop in volume of both sheepmeat and beef exports compared to last March, with sheepmeat dropping 25 per cent to 41,541 tonnes and beef by eight per cent to 46,176 tonnes.

Trends elsewhere

During March, overall exports to the US rose 48 per cent to $288m and the sector saw a record monthly volume of sheepmeat exports to the US (4,295 tonnes worth $83.4m). This highlights the growing opportunity for sheepmeat in that market.

Overall exports to the UK rose by  22 per cent by value ($65m) and by 18 per cent to Japan ($50m). However, chilled sheepmeat exports to the UK fell by 80 per cent, year on year to 433 tonnes, reflecting the ongoing logistics issues with transporting chilled product.

The value of overall sheepmeat exports nevertheless was largely unchanged at $500m for March and the value of beef exports was up 27 per cent to $470m.


The Meat Industry Association of New Zealand is the voluntary trade association representing processors, marketers, and exporters of New Zealand red meat, rendered products, and hides and skins. MIA members represent 99 percent of domestic red meat production and export. The red meat industry is a critical part of New Zealand’s economy, and the second largest goods exporter. It is New Zealand’s largest manufacturing industry, employing some 25,000 people in about 60 processing plants, mainly in the regions.

Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash


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