By Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, FMI

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Even though the average consumer may not think much about how it gets there, a lot of work, thought and resources go into each product in the retail meat case. And behind every piece of protein there are many people who make it happen, from the farm, ranch and feedlot to the processing plant to the food retailer.

This is true in any given time, but, as we know all too well, the events of the past year posed even more challenges in the farm-to-fork supply chain. Certainly, the images shared last spring of oversupply on one side and empty stores on the other side were as indelible. At one point, according to Power of Meat: Midyear 2020 report, 91% of consumers experienced out of stocks in their retail meat department.

Thanks to the ingenuity of those in our interlinked industries, however, the supply chain has begun to normalize, with safeguards in the event of further virus-related disruption.

The nature of meat products, along with the unique supply cycle that drives availability and price, make this a formidable market in many ways. Add to that a global pandemic, geopolitical upheaval and a consumer base with ever-evolving preferences and tastes, and it’s clear that collaboration must remain a cornerstone for continued success.

Collaboration that propels future success doesn’t happen in a vacuum, just as meat doesn’t just wind up in front of consumers at the point of sale. Those who produce, process and purvey meat need to align, both in a big-picture and down-to-the-details way.

Ongoing restrictions on travel and gathering mean that we’re not able to collaborate by meeting together in a conference room or in face to face as we have in the past. But while movement is restricted, the exchange of ideas and information is certainly not. It’s more pivotal than ever, in fact, to listen to the latest information and engage in discussions to provide consumers what they want and define (or redefine) the meat department. That’s why the 2021 Annual Meat Conference, “State of Change,” should be on your calendar for March 22-March 25.

There are big topics to address in this state of change in which we find ourselves. How should meat brands and meat departments react to the rise of plant-based proteins that have become equals instead of alternatives in some shoppers’ minds?  How can our industries best provide and merchandise healthy, nutritious meat products across a variety of species and formats? What will the labor market look like across the board and what will be the impact of that dynamic? How will the dramatic rise of ecommerce provide both challenges and opportunities for perishables like meat and poultry?

Presented by FMI and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), the 2021 Annual Meat Conference (AMC) is a virtual (and convenient!) way for you to get a complete educational and networking experience. You can see what’s new in meat and poultry from a wide range of exhibits; this is the only event dedicated to the retail segment of the meat and poultry industry. Sign up for some of AMC’s comprehensive educational sessions covering the latest developments in meat retailing. In addition to information, you’ll get valuable, actionable tools  that will help you in product development and marketing and help boost your sales and customer loyalty.

Join us for the 2021 Annual Meat Conference as we look forward to better times ahead. It’s not too early to take this time to plan for 2022; in fact, it’s the best time, even as we set the industry agenda and help our customers this year.

Register for the Annual Meat Conference