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Food and Drink

Laura Ryan

Laura is an expert in building global networks and driving transformational change across the agri-food sector. She has a portfolio of work across the global meat sector including her consultancy business Lavenpark, being the Founder and Global Chair of Meat Business Women (the global professional networking group for women working across the meat industry, assuring the sustainability of the meat sector by attracting and retaining the best possible talent) and co-founder of the trailblazing Global Meat Alliance initiative. The GMA is on a mission to connect the fragmented global meat industry by sharing the best insight and developing joint programmes to positively impact consumer behaviour worldwide.

One business success

  • My most significant highlight from the last year was creating the opportunity for corporate businesses and individuals to become members of Meat Business Women. We are now operating with members across the globe, all coming together on a monthly basis to share best practices whilst on a mission to attract and retain talent for the meat sector. Coupled with this, we have launched a global mentoring scheme to allow our members to connect on a one-on-one basis.

Two challenges for the sector

  • Inter-governmental pressures: at the most senior level, decision-makers are challenging the sustainability of meat production and consumption. We’ll see this at the forthcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit and COP26. The meat sector has been slow at building a strong aligned global narrative and my work with Global Meat Alliance will assist in overcoming this. We need to resist the temptation to be negative about other production systems and be proactive about the category as a whole before we flag differentiation.
  • Image: the image of working in the meat sector is poor and the recent Meat Business Women report ( highlighted that graduates do not feel that the meat sector is an aspirational one to work in. This is partly fuelling the significant labour crisis the industry is experiencing, alongside post-Brexit immigration rules.

Three forecasts for the sector

  • New agricultural policy: we will see a contraction of production in the red meat sector, especially in the uplands where farmers will be rewarded for rewilding and planting trees. Rural communities will be impacted as major businesses, such as British Airways, buy farms for carbon offsetting and areas no longer produce livestock.
  • Sustainability: the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals will become increasingly important to the meat processing sector; this includes the climate challenges and the race to net zero, but sustainability in its widest sense will be increasingly business critical.
  • Demand for meat: UK consumers will still want to consume meat. The increase in sales throughout the global pandemic has re-connected shoppers with meat and it’s unlikely to reduce in significant volumes, particularly as the major retailers sell many lines as a loss leader.

July 2021