BUENOS AIRES – Focused on global issues affecting the beef, pork and sheep meat industries, the International Meat Secretariat’s World Meat Congress kicked off Sept. 26 in Argentina and will run through Sept. 29.

The International Meat Secretariat is an industry coalition comprised primarily of nations that are significant exporters of red meat, with the largest delegate numbers coming from Argentina, followed by attendees from Brazil and Uruguay as well as those from the European Union countries, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It addresses major issues affecting red meat industries, and seeks consensus or debate about addressing key industry problems.

Species-specific committees came together on the first day of the event to address issues that included: climate change and environmental impact; animal welfare; food safety; and trade barriers.

The sheep meat committee, chaired by Peter Orwick from the US, started the day with an overview that included optimism about future price strength caused by tight worldwide supplies of both lamb and mutton. Demand is expected to grow significantly in the Middle East, China and India.

The beef committee meeting, chaired by Marcelo Fielder of Argentina, included a discussion of the impact of reduced beef cattle numbers in US and Canada, resulting in decreased confidence among producers, despite rising cow prices as of late.

Beef supplies in Argentina are also on the decline, according to a information from the US Meat Export Federation's economist, Erin Daley. She said the drop is the result of government intervention policies designed to hinder beef exports to strengthen local supply levels have failed. The problems have been compounded by severe drought in the region.

"These circumstances are making grain farming much more attractive than ranching, contributing to a shift in this region's land use," said Daley.

Also discussed was the devastating affect of Australia’s recent drought and the economic challenges among EU countries. With the exception of North American market, the general consensus and outlook for the future of global demand for beef was very positive according to presenters and among attendees.

The afternoon of the first day’s festivities included a meeting of the Pork Committee – chaired by Geert Gundi of Denmark. Attendees and presenters discussed the outlook for the pork industry on a global scale and provided reasons for general optimism about the future supply and demand for pork. The future opportunities stemming from growing demand for pork in Asia was a hot topic of a panel discussion moderated by Erin Daley, an economist with the US Meat Export Federation.

Sessions for the next two days of the event will cover topics related to global meat supply, market outlook, animal health, animal welfare, and sustainability. To find out more about this year’s World Meat Congress, go to www.worldmeatcongress2010.com.