After a memorable two days at ArenaMK for Meatup, show blogger Laura Sexton reports on the key happenings at the dedicated meat industry event.

Laura Sexton, show blogger.

With the help of an array of wonderful exhibitors and of course delicious free bacon butties on both mornings, brought to the show by Lucas Ingredients, I already anticipated the event would be a good one before it even kicked off.

Over the two days of Meatup, I was able watch six excellent expert speakers in the Seminar Theatre, who all gave thought-provoking talks on their areas of expertise.

Nathan Ward, business unit director for Meat, Fish and Poultry at Kantar Worldpanel, gave his presentation first which looked at consumer shopping trends. Ward’s speech captured everyone’s attention and was both informative and insightful.

Peter Wareing, food safety and manufacturing consultant at Leatherhead Food Research, spoke of antimicrobial resistance. Those in the Seminar Theatre, including myself were able to come away with a deeper comprehension of a subject we perhaps wouldn’t have known as much about prior to Meatup.

As the speakers came and went in the Seminar Theatre, I began to spot familiar faces amongst the crowds, with people returning to each seminar, keen to hear what each speaker had to offer, like myself.

Graeme Goodsir from Graeme Goodsir Associates INC travelled all the way from America and watched and interacted with each speaker over the two days. He commented: “My question for seminar speaker Peter Wareing of Leatherhead Food Research, was ‘what is Defra doing to discourage the excessive use of antibiotics?’ The seminar was very good. He had great diction and he sold it very well.”

When discussing Meatup as a whole, he said: “It all looks very impressive, I have to say.”

Henrietta Sameke, technical policy advisor at the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), also stepped up to the Seminar Theatre podium and discussed the challenges that face the food industry and the demands that the industry has for the future.

Day two saw AIMS head of policy Norman Bagely give his talk on Brexit which provoked a riveting Q&A session, with plenty of questions being thrown his way for him to answer.

Meanwhile, Dr Phil Hadley from AHDB Beef & Lamb spoke in the Seminar Theatre about meat exports and how they are changing.

The seminar programme ended with Lucianne Allen from Aubrey Allen who gave a brilliant and engaging presentation about apprenticeships in butchery. A former barrister, Lucianne’s presentation skills were something to be admired. She certainly put forward a winning case.

Peter Wareing in the Seminar Theatre.

But Meatup wasn’t just about the speakers. Throughout the event, myself and my colleagues took the time to talk to the exhibitors and find out if their experiences at Meatup had been just as good as ours.

Chris Archer, commercial recruitment manager for Prestige Recruitment, explained why he’d consider returning to Meatup in 2019: “It’s been steady and all the conversations I’ve had have been positive. It’s quite focused which is a benefit for us as everything discussed has been to the point.”

Archer also made the comment that, because of the hot weather outside, Arena MK was a perfect venue, allowing everyone to stay cool on what was said to be the hottest May day for years.

Matthew Naisbit, Bizerba’s retail sales executive for the South East, commented: “If we can convert the leads we’ve made here, it’ll definitely be worth us returning to Meatup in years to come.”

Mark Garner, senior operations manager at Weddel Swift, Leeds, noted: “It’s a lovely venue and the butchers that have been on our stand have been very appreciative and thought it was a great place to come and visit.”

In the Competitions Arena I watched as awards were given out across 22 categories for the National Meat Products Competition, on day one.

This saw Alison Mellors of Malloney’s take home the Supreme Champion award for Traditional Pork Pie, while David Purser from the Master Butcher took home the Supreme Sausage Champion award. He said: “My products must have stood out because I use asparagus – I come from the best asparagus area in the country.”

On day two the Premier Young Butcher 2017 competition took place which saw young butchers Elsie Yardley, James Gracey, Thomas Lea and Jack Eagles compete in various butchery challenges through the day in the central competitions area in front of a live audience. After each taking home prizes for their skills, it was James Gracey who was given the Premier Young Butcher accolade, with Thomas Lea as runner up.

This competition, which highlighted the country’s young talent in the butchery sector, was refreshing and exciting for all involved and it was a joy to watch the next generation of butchers showcase their skills. Congratulations to James!

Judging for the National Meat Products Competition.

With Meatup now over I caught up with the organiser and main sponsor to see what they gained from the experience.

Emily Ansell Elfer, editor of Meat Management, the event’s media partner, told me: “The Meatup show offered a really beneficial opportunity for the team at Meat Management to engage with our readers and advertisers. A highlight for me was the seminar programme which offered informative sessions on key topics in the sector. Nathan Ward’s presentation on consumer meat buying trends was particularly informative. It was a busy few days for our team but we managed to work our way around most of the hall and catch up with both old and new friends across the industry.”

Meatup show organiser Emma Cash said: “We enjoyed an interesting two days at the Meatup show and I would like to thank everyone for participating. Without the support from our sponsors and exhibitors, and of course the visitors, this important meat industry event would not be possible. From the Competitions Arena to the Seminar Theatre and the World Butchers’ Challenge, there was a hive of activity across the exhibition hall. The team were also delighted to help stage the prestigious Premier Young Butcher competition. This accolade offers fantastic exposure for butchers and we hope James Gracey makes the most of this winning opportunity.”

Meatup has been an excellent way to network with readers, exhibitors and meat industry experts alike. I hope you enjoyed the experience – I know I did!