In the recent past, the export of meat products has increased at an annual rate of about 30%. With surplus income and changing lifestyle ready to eat meat products have potential in our domestic market, write M. Muthukuamr, B.M. Naveena and A.R. Sen

Indian meat industry has emerged as the most dynamic and rapidly expanding segment of our livestock economy. Its production is registered 5.3 million tonnes with a recent export of 0.61 million tonnes fetching about Rs.2900 cores foreign exchange. In the recent past, the export of meat products has increased at an annual rate of about 30%. With surplus income and changing lifestyle ready to eat meat products have potential in our domestic market.

Convenience Meat Products

The convenience meat products are ready to cook or ready to serve meat products that require minimal preparation in the kitchen and easy to handle and quick to serve. There are a variety of such products e.g. cooked/uncooked, comminuted/uncomminuted, flaked, reformed, as well as fermented, cured, smoked, enrobed and canned. Most of the products are subjected to a combination of several process steps like grinding, chopping, the addition of seasonings, alteration of colour or heat treatment before reaching the final form. The processing of food is an ever-changing technique. The advancement of science and technology leads to the improvement of old processes and the introduction of new processes.
Development of minced/emulsion type of product has been considered a potential solution for utilization of meat from spent birds and animals (breeder stock). The unnecessary wastage of the valuable commodity can be avoided if they are processed into value-added convenience products. Mincing and mixing with other non-meat ingredients not only eliminate toughness problems but also improve palatability and variety. Moreover, the economic pressure to minimize cost and maximize meat utilization provides incentives for processed meat into customer-oriented meat products. There is a greater scope of domestic and export trade by improving the post-harvest distribution and processing facilities of this highly perishable commodity.

Domestic Marketing for Meat Products

At present hardly less than 2% of the production is commercially processed in India against 30% in developed countries. Most of the consumers of the middle and lower-income groups like only fresh meat rather than chilled or frozen. Moreover, in India, meat is invariably a dish for the main meal and rarely used as snack food. The processed meat sector is still in its infancy. This is mainly due to lack of popularity, inadequate processing and cold chain facilities, lack of both quality control and organized marketing and distribution network for the ready-made meat products. However, the rapid socio-economic shifts, fast-changing food habits, rise in working women force and increases in the nuclear family have provided new opportunities for processed and ready to eat meat products. More and more consumers are getting exposed to new products through media. The incoming of some multinational fast food companies such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald, Mary Brown, Pizza Hut, Wimpy, Domino’s and expansion of local companies like Venkateshwara Hatcheries Ltd., Al-Kabeer Exports Ltd., Shalimar, Godrej, etc. have created a favourable atmosphere for value-added products. Upcoming supermarket stores that display the products in a retail outlet chain can make these convenience meat products popular. Recently Venky’s have opened their retail outlets in and around metro cities including exhibition areas and other busy parts of cities around the country.

Export Potential for Meat Products

Presently India’s contribution to the export of meat products is significantly low and amounting less than 2%. The processed meat sector in India has to go along way to catch up with some developing countries such as China, Malaysia which have modernized their facilities and exported products to developed and high economically developing countries. With the increased efforts in respect of disease surveillance, establishment of the disease-free zone, the establishment of export-oriented processing units, liberalization and promotion measures have enhanced the export of meat and meat products.

Major Constraints

Even in the well-organised meat production units, the priority is more on the production of fresh, frozen meat. Recently the production of convenience meat products started gaining momentum. However, lack of strong market base, conventional dietary habits of consumers, diversity in regional taste, inadequate advertising and campaign to highlight virtues of processed meat products, lack of faith amongst consumers in the quality of such products in the absences of quality assurance programmes, non-awareness about availability and cooking methods and the usually high price of processed products are the major bottlenecks. The non-availability of indigenous processing equipment suitable to small and medium scale processing unit is the major impediments in the development of this sector.

Future Prospects and Thrusts

In spite of vast reservoir of livestock, the rate of slaughter is very low India. The slaughter rate of 40.74% for goat and 32.83% for sheep is very low compared to 71.10% for goat and 70.0% for sheep in European countries. In case of bovine, the slaughter rate is less than 10% against an average slaughter rate of 35% in other livestock holding countries. Availability of layer and broiler is also inadequate. Many more number of meat animals should therefore be available for slaughter which could be beneficially utilized through processed products.

At present the processed industry caters mainly to urban population constituting about 30% of total population, leaving a vast 70% rural population untapped. It is therefore, essential that value added products should be available in all the consuming areas in hygienic condition along with the proper promotion. It can change the perception and mindset of the consumer. Meat consumer should be motivated to accept chilled and frozen meat and meat products. Most of the consumers perceive frozen foods as stale and much inferior to the freshly dressed one. Hence very strong and clear promotion campaign is necessary to change the perception and motivate the consumer to accept chilled and frozen meat and meat products. Consumers’ perception is very important in deciding the products he would like the industry to produce.

Convenient products, which suit the Indian consumer palates, should be formulated and developed. The full advantage of rich Indian spices, traditional Indian cuisine may be taken in achieving subtle variation in the product profile.

There is a need to develop cheaper formulations using cheaper vegetable binders and extenders. Reduction in cost of production of products can be achieved largely through economic formulations. Use of byproducts (additives and fillers/binders/extenders) at appropriate level ensures reduction in formulation cost. An integrated approach has to be adopted to promote the consumption of processed foods in the country. This includes generic advertisement through electronic/print media, ensuring availability of convenient products in all parts of country, organizing fairs, exhibitions, and conferences in various parts of the county and abroad.
Non-conformity of products to sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirement of developed countries is to be addressed urgently. By adopting GMP and HACCP systems right from production to processing stages, problem related to pathogenic micro flora, toxins, residues of hormonal, heavy metal, veterinary drugs and pesticide can be tackled.

India is in the phase of transition and it has to bring its legislation in line with WTO requirements. One of the most common and dominant form of intellectual property right is the patent. We have to conduct extensive research and development in meat products and processes and establish our ownership patent rights.

India does not have a specific law on the geographical indication. There is an urgent need to bring our indigenous meat products like tandoori chicken, kofta etc. because these have a great deal of export value and liked by ethnic population settled abroad.

Conclusion

The upcoming horizontal and vertical integration in meat production and processing expected large investment in technologies, processing equipment, the cold chain will promote the growth of the vital sectors of the meat processing industry and thereby offer convenience, quality value-added products to domestic as well as international consumers. In the coming years, convenience meat products should definitely find a respectable place in Indian consumers’ homes. The meat profession has to excel in encouraging the general public, media, and the government to overcome social, religious taboos and encourage for the political goodwill, which will result in hygienic meat production, processing, and export potentiality.