You certainly know all the so-called classic meat traders, those who work in noisy and crowded trading rooms, buying and selling stocks, bonds and derivatives on the financial markets. But you know.
Meat producers and traders, an ancient but little-known profession
You certainly know all the so-called classic traders, those who work in noisy and crowded trading rooms, buying and selling stocks, bonds and derivatives on the financial markets. But you probably know less about meat traders. Yet they have been around for millennia, perhaps even since the beginning of the meat trade.
The difference between meat producers and traders
Meat producers are the professionals who take care of feeding and growing the animals that will later give meat for sale. They then take care of the slaughtering process of the animals, in the slaughterhouses, before leaving the hand with the meat traders, those who trade in these meats in order to buy them at low prices and resell them at the best price. The two trades are thus in a similar value chain, but at different levels, with the meat producer starting the chain upstream, while the meat trader takes over later, downstream, before selling his products to wholesalers, processors or distributors.
Comparison between meat traders and stock market traders
Meat traders are very often assimilated to a sub-category of financial traders, who place orders behind computers. On the contrary, bete (meat) trading is carried out by telephone, with prices that are set in accordance with the supply and demand of meat in France or in the world.
The many intermediaries in meat trading and the problems they raise
Many intermediaries are part of this giant market that is the food industry, and more specifically the meat trade. Indeed, from production to final distribution to the customer, many professionals are involved. The reason for this multiplication of intermediaries? The near impossibility for the initial supplier to reach the customer directly. Then the traders, then the final retailers take care of bringing the meat to the customer. The main reasons why the supplier cannot reach the customer are language barriers, geographical distance or imperfect knowledge of the market (asymmetry of information). Even today, many slaughterhouses (and therefore suppliers) have exclusive contracts with traders. As a result, any person who wants to sell meat from the slaughterhouse will have to go through the trader. The same type of intermediaries exist, particularly upstream, where slaughterhouses sometimes obtain their supplies from livestock traders, and rarely directly from livestock farmers.
All of these intermediaries have caused significant problems in recent years, particularly during the Findus meat scandal. Health problems have been raised by public opinion, and investigators have been brought in to ensure the fairness and veracity of meat transfer information. The major problem identified was the imprecise names used in commercial documents.
Reinforcement of checks on the activities of meat traders and producers
The first reinforcement is on traceability, with an assessment reconciling purchase and sales invoices, dates and types of products. The second reinforcement concerns the specifications, which must now contain specific observations, and no longer confine itself to being a “technical sheet”. Specification documents must not be mere theoretical guarantees. The third reinforcement concerns self-checks. From now on, the person placing a product on the market is responsible for verifying the conformity of commercial transactions and ensuring consumer safety.
The fourth reinforcement concerns invoicing and the denominations used. It is now necessary to use very precise denominations to characterize products very precisely, with a specific name and code.
Finally, the last one concerns the reinforcement of VSM (mechanically separated meats) characteristics.
We see that meat producers and traders both belong to a long and complex value chain, but one that is now highly controlled