How the Netherlands meat industry dealt with 2020

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As director of International Affairs for the Dutch Meat Industry Association, Frans van Dongen spent much of his time traveling and advocating on behalf of meat producers in the Netherlands. But the pandemic threw a big wrench in all of his flight plans.

If asked, he will say that all of the hours he spent in planes are now free, and all the hours he didn’t sleep because of his traveling – he can sleep now.

“So, I’m very relaxed at this moment,” he said. “But my sector isn’t. We have had a difficult time, and we still have a difficult time.”

The Dutch veal sector was hard-hit by pandemic-related lockdowns that closed restaurants in the Netherlands and across Europe. Sales of veal are very dependent on the foodservice sector with between 50% and 60% of consumption taking place in foodservice establishments in Europe, van Dongen said.

That market ranges from the typical restaurants in Italy and France that host business lunches, dinners, tourists in the cities to small shops in Germany that serve veal kebabs.

“That was all gone,” he said.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time on this one because in Europe, like in North America, there was a lot of discussion about helping the sectors overcoming the crisis outside of the food sector but also inside of the food sector in agriculture. In Europe this is all arranged at the European level.”

That meant the Dutch veal sector was competing with interests more broadly represented across the 27-member bloc at time when budgets are tight.

“We are not well-represented over all 27 — or 28 if you still include the UK — member states,” van Dongen said. “And veal is only produced in three, four member states.

“So, we had to solve our problems ourselves, and to a large extent, we were able to solve them.”

In this week’s MEAT+POULTRY podcast, van Dongen explains how the Dutch meat industry, especially the veal sector, managed to pivot their veal supply management strategy in a way that would help producers during a second lockdown. He also provided insights into why the Dutch meat industry is well-positioned to emerge from this global crisis stronger than ever.

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