“Everything is now connected,” was among the key messages to emerge from the International Egg Commission’s latest conference, held in Venice, Italy, March 25-27.

Some 360 attendees gathered for the event, which looked at long-term strategies for the egg industry: sustainability, understanding what the consumer requires, the future of egg processing, the role of eggs in the developing world and how to globalize quality standards.

Joined-up thinking  

Delegates were told the future of food production is now fundamentally connected to multiple factors, including: the environment, the global economy, the global population and particularly oil prices. From the stock markets in the US and Europe to the world’s changing climate and population growth in Asia and Africa, everything has an impact. Rabobank’s Nan-Dirk Mulder discussed the global economy and the impact that this has on the egg industry. Although he explained that the egg industry has been relatively resilient to the global economic downturn, he did stress that the link between the industry and external factors, such as oil prices, has strengthened significantly in recent years.

He was optimistic about the global economy, believing that internationally there are positive signs of recovery, but he did note that volatility will remain, and the egg industry must be prepared, as it will not be immune to the effects of this.

Consumer demands, challenges  

Leonardo Mirone, from the Italian food company Barilla, also predicted that there would be many challenges ahead for food processing.

International Egg Commission delegates learned that Barilla has established a think tank to tackle what he referred to as the “food production paradigms:” How do we manage the fact that globally 1 billion people are undernourished while, at the same time, 1 billion people die from an excess of food?

Mirone explained that Barilla’s think tank has been working on various projects throughout Italy and believes that it is possible to set up systems that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Expectations  

Delegates were told of the importance of creating a long-term strategy to produce a trustworthy, sustainable egg supply.

Giampaolo Cavallaro, of Findus/Birdseye, spoke about customer expectations, and explained that, year-on-year, sustainability is becoming more important to the final consumer. As well as trusting that their food is safe, Cavallaro noted that today’s consumer also demands ethical compliance throughout the supply chain, demanding that producers respect and protect the environment for the next generation.

Charlie Arnot, from the Center for Food Integrity, stressed the importance of building sustainable public trust in today’s egg industry. He told delegates: “Trust is actually the most valuable asset that your organization owns. Without trust, the rest of your assets have no value.”