The red meat industry will next month be urged to grasp the opportunity to create the sort of "joined up" supply chain needed to ensure it has a profitable future. The rallying cry will come in London on March 7 when the Industry Forum ­ a partnership between the MLC, IGD and DEFRA ­ presents the results of its inquiries into the red meat sector. Separate working groups made up of executives from the food and drink industry and beyond have been looking at consumer issues, the supply chain and benchmarking. Peter Barr, chairman of the MLC, said the forum was not a talking shop, but would outline practical recommendations that the industry could implement ­ particularly in critical areas such as profitability and how best to further differentiate British meat. "We will set out our objectives, we will manage these objectives and we will be following through on them." He added: "There is a window of opportunity. People are prepared to think differently. We must grab that opportunity." Barr pointed to the success of the IGD Food Project in identifying initiatives that were still running as an example of what could be achieved. "And the timing is right," he added, "We are coming out with a lot of things that the Farming and Food Commission is talking about." The forum's consumer panel has identified 10 main forces that will impact red meat consumption in coming years. The good news for suppliers is that red meat consumption is not expected to collapse. However, the way in which people buy meat and the way in which it is packaged will change dramatically. On the supply side, the forum has adopted ECR techniques to draft an action plan for ensuring the industry becomes more consumer focused and competitive. "The red meat supply chain is very compartmentalised. It is not a supply chain ­ it is a spider's web," said Barr, "Retailer doesn't talk to farmer ­ and farmer doesn't talk to retailer. Communication up and down the chain is non-existent." The action plan envisages a future with, in effect, two supply chains. One is globally competitive and supplies the foodservice and retail sectors with substantially differentiated British product. The other is a more localised chain serving outlets such as farmers' markets, craft butchers and local caterers. The group looking at benchmarking has conducted pilot studies that it hopes will lead to a benchmarking service for the entire red meat industry. In particular it has developed a web based model that has allowed pig farmers to benchmark their operations. This has been tested by 30 major producers and is being hailed as a resounding success by the MLC. {{NEWS }}