BELGIUM, Brussels. This was the twelfth Round Table of the Belgian Meat Office (BMO). The discussions in Brussels centred on Belgian eating habits and on the strength of Belgian meat exports. In addition, specialist journalists from seven countries came to the European capital to talk with BMO Manager René Maillard and his team.
Why is that? Kris Michiels explained that the debate in Belgium about what constitutes a good diet is influenced by the topics of health, environmental impact, price structure and animal welfare. Consumption is falling as a result. Unseen risks unsettle consumers, explained scientist Filip Degreef of the Free University of Brussels. In the case of pork, for example, it is impossible to see whether antibiotics have been administered or not. Also, the killing of animals remains a problem for many consumers, not least because food is now produced out of sight of most people. As in Germany, it is the taste of meat which leads consumers to buy beef and pork. "Belgian meat connoisseurs don't like the taste of the substitutes. That's why meat-free alternatives remain niche products," said Kris Michiels.
The Belgians export half of the total of 1.1 mill. t of pork (2016) they produce, explained BMO Manager Joris Coenen. 88% of the export volume is supplied to the EU internal market. The largest customer remains Germany with a share of around 300,000 t, ahead of Poland. Asked about the huge demand for meat from China, Coenen said: "China will remain a significant buyer of EU goods." He expressed concern about the steadily encroaching African swine fever.