The meat and poultry industry is forecasted to continue growing over the next couple of years. It’s anticipated that retail sales will reach approximately $100 billion by 2021. While there has been some hesitation in the markets due to health and safety concerns in the past 5 to 10 years, consumers are starting to embrace red meat once again. In addition to the market increasing as a whole, there is a growing demand for local meat that is organic, grass-fed, and/or cage-free. This means that smaller meat farmers and processors are gaining more importance in the market.
The New England Meat Conference is a special event for New England farms and processors. This two-day event is intended to help the local New England meat industry players by helping them network and teaching them new techniques to improve efficiency and to meet consumer trends and demands. The main objective of the conference is to help New England farms and processors produce meat that is delicious, humanely raised, nutritious, and sustainable. There are four main components to the conference: education, networking, a tradeshow, and a celebration.
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Education is perhaps the most important component of the entire two-day conference. Each day is filled with numerous sessions all focused on educating farmers and processors on current trends, changes in the industry, etc. These educational sessions are focused on numerous aspects of production, processing, and marketing. Some of the sessions are in lecture format or roundtable format, while others are live demonstrations or even hands-on demonstrations. Past educational sessions include using social media, a look at emerging markets, how to survive a recall, improving genetics, building farmer and processor relationships, etc. Educational sessions are presented by local industry players as well as experts from across the country.
The New England Meat Conference pulls together individuals from all different areas of the meat industry. Past attendees have included chefs, farmers, distributors, processors, trash experts, government officials, and consumers. The layout of the conference is intended to help you network with others over roundtable discussions as well as during the more social aspects of the conference. It allows individuals to learn from and connect with others that operate in the different states throughout New England. Past conferences have helped connect farmers and processors, have helped goat farmers find finishing farmers, and have helped smaller players connect with others in the industry helping them scale up.
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Another key aspect of the New England Meat Conference is the trade-show that occurs across the span of the two-day conference. This trade show hosts companies with products and services that can help improve attendees’ operations. Vendors offer a wide variety of products and services. Past participants and companies have offered products and services related to ingredients, packaging, labeling, scales, etc. Vendors also include technology companies that can help improve the efficiency of the attendees’ operations, as well as insurance agencies and financing companies. The tradeshow features vendors that are local to the New England area, as well as vendors that operate nationwide and internationally.
The celebratory aspect of the conference is the most anticipated part of the conference. The most popular event at the New England Need to Conference is the Meat Ball. The first day of the conference is concluded with a celebration complete with dancing and live music. The celebration also includes samplings of local needs as well as an awards ceremony.
This conference is intended to help educate local farmers and processors so that they can implement new techniques and technologies to improve the efficiency of their operations. the local industry has always been in competition with bigger farms and national players. However, the trend towards local meats and grass-fed meat is giving the local industry greater importance.
Sustainability is a huge part of why the conference has been started. There are several educational sessions dedicated to helping processors, butchers, chefs, etc. to understand how to use more of each animal. The conference aims to help people move beyond the traditional grocery store cuts of steaks and roasts.
The conference also helps the local industry understands national trends and local trends, helping them run their operations. Forecasted trends are also discussed as well as the impact of past trends. All of this can help the local industry operate better and take advantage of predicted consumer demands.
With the trend towards vegetarianism and other Meat-free diets, it is essential that the local meat and poultry industry focus on innovation and providing healthy forms of protein. Gone are the days of consumers picking the cheapest meat available. Nowadays, consumers are looking for premium products including organic, grass-fed, and cage-free meats. There is also a trend towards snacks that include meat will and consumers are placing increasing importance on the quality of the proteins in their diet.
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The New England Meat Conference aims to help the local market cope with and adjust to these new and emerging trends. In an effort to provide as much value as possible, the conference operates on a biennial schedule. This gives attendees a chance to implement what they have learned and gives adequate time to address changing trends.
The conference also aims to help improve how animals are raised as part of the local meat and poultry industry. Raising animals humanely is a primary concern throughout the local meat industry and practices that assist in this are promoted and taught at the conference. Changes will only come about in the industry if farmers and processors are educated about the humane methods available so that they can implement them in their own operations.
The conference is organized by a steering committee with members from each of the six New England states. Additionally, the event is funded by numerous organizations. Past sponsors have included Animal Welfare Approved, The Beef Checkoff Program, Adams Farm Slaughterhouse, Northeast Laboratory Services, Inc., Cornerstone Farm Ventures, Stonyfield, and Vermont Grass Farmers Association.