Optimizing the global cold chain is the key to keeping up with consumers’ demands for meat, but are today’s supply chain managment solutions ready for the future?
As evidenced by recent cultural phenomena like the “Chicken Sandwich Wars,” consumers’ passion for meat shows no signs of slowing down. Food fads aside, there are historical and socio-economic reasons behind the steady growth of the meat industry.
Since the late 19th century, expanding wealth has corresponded with increased protein consumption. In those days, only the richest people could afford diverse diets and eating meat was seen as a status symbol. Meat is still expensive to produce in comparison to fruits and vegetables, but worldwide earnings have tripled over the past 50 years — and with them has come a growing demand for meat.
Because meat is a perishable commodity — even more so than most other food products — it has the potential to generate a massive amount of waste. It therefore takes a strategic and streamlined supply chain to ensure that meat is stored and transported properly. In order to prevent spoilage, meat suppliers and vendors need to invest in sustainable practices to bring consumers the products they crave.
Meat-eaters have the cold supply chain (the complex system that houses and transports perishable foods such as meat) to thank for the accessibility of their favorite burgers, steaks, and chicken wings. Here’s how supply chain managers can keep up with consumer demand and make strides toward cold supply chain sustainability.
Effective Supply Chain Management Supports A Meat-Rich Diet
Global meat consumption is expected to tip the scales at 376 million tons by 2030. In the U.S. alone, the average person eats 220 pounds of meat and poultry annually. So how does all of this meat get to where it needs to go?
Thanks to the rise of refrigeration and temperature controlled warehouses, an efficient cold chain ensures that meat safely makes its way to supermarkets around the world. The cold supply chain takes perishable foods from production to consumption, which enables us to get certain fruits, vegetables, and meats all year round. The advanced infrastructure brought about by urbanization also makes it easier and more profitable to trade in perishable goods.
The cold supply chain for meat — fresh, processed, or frozen — must be as efficient as possible and go uninterrupted. If one link in the cold chain fails or takes too long, the product may become inedible and unsellable. For this reason, there are strict supply chain management guidelines that must be adhered to at all times. For instance, meat must be kept at temperatures below 40℉ (plus or minus 15 to 20 degrees) during transport, and arrive in stores within two days of leaving the slaughterhouse.
The Power Of Cold Supply Chain Sustainability
The cold chain is the linchpin that holds a massive food industry supply chain management network together. To grasp the magnitude of the global cold chain, consider China, one of the largest meat-consuming countries in the world. China currently has a population hovering around 1.4 billion people and the average person consumes 121 pounds of meat a year, 60% of which is pork.
Even a one percent increase in meat consumption in a country this size would cause a massive ripple effect across the supply chain. There would be a rapid growth in meat that has to be raised, processed, stored, and shipped in an efficient manner. Further, since there’s a finite amount of animal products that can be produced within the country, an increase in meat consumption would also cause a spike in the import/export market.
How Is Food Industry Supply Chain Management Evolving?
Increased meat consumption will impact cold supply chain sustainability because the two are inextricably linked. And advanced supply chain technologies make it easier to handle increased demand. Warehouse managers can harness the power of automated warehouse temperature control systems to make sure storage consistently stays cold and meat stays fresh. After leaving the warehouse, transport management solutions like route optimization and geo-fencing ensure shipments make it to their destinations on time.
As wealth around the world increases, particularly in countries with large populations like China, we can expect to see a significant increase in protein consumption. But as long as supply chain managers have the right tools, the global cold chain can withstand consumers’ increasing appetite for meat.