An ever increasing population of younger, health conscious consumers and one eager to protect the environment is changing the demand for red meat in the western world with the result being more will have to be exported to growing markets in the far east.

As highlighted in this column in last week's issue, reduced demand for beef, lamb and pork in the UK has already seen ex-farm values slip to those of 2012 in some sectors with sheep meat also way below that of the past two years.

It's a phenomenon that is happening throughout the western world too, according to Adam Buitelaar of the livestock and production systems exporting Buitelaar Group, based in Eire, and Arno Verberkt of the Van Drie Group in The Netherlands, which exports veal, as well as calf milk powder, to more than 60 countries around the world.

"The amount of beef being eaten per head in the UK and throughout western Europe has been falling over the past year as an increasing number of younger people make health decisions to eat less red meat and dairy products," said Mr Buitelaar, managing director of the Buitelaar Group, which exports beef and veal throughout Europe and into Asia and north Africa.

"There will still be a demand for red meat and dairy products in the UK, but the end markets are changing.

"Consumers are not all becoming vegan, but they are reducing the amount of red meat they consume and they want a good story to go with the proteins they do eat.

"We won't see the beef or the dairy trade disappear in this country, but we will see more red meat sell to different markets in the far east," he said adding that three years ago, 85% of the beef and veal sold from the Buitelaar facilities in Eire, was exported to England, whereas now, some 75% is shipped to Europe and the Far East now.

"People from the Asia and north Africa want a more western-style diet, so while demand in the UK and Europe is changing, demand from other markets is growing.

"There are a lot more hungry people to feed around the world compared to the number who are eating less meat in the UK," he added.

Instead, Mr Buitelaar who was speaking at a calf rearing meeting in Ayrshire, called for more education to promote both the red meat and the dairy industry, which he said had been badly represented by the media in recent years.

"We have got to stop blaming people and the media, and think about what we can do differently if we want to get consumers eating more red meat.

"The beef, sheep and dairy industry is getting some pretty bad press and while some of the news is utterly wrong, some of it might be right.

"We have all got to be responsible and do the best we can to ensure our industry remains, because it takes just one bad photograph in the wrong hands to cause serious damage to the entire sector," said Mr Buitelaar.

Instead, he encouraged producers to highlight the fact that British and Scottish beef is some of the most naturally reared beef in the world.

"People want a good farming story when they buy their meat now, so while Aberdeen Angus is still associated with quality beef, with the huge rise in registrations, Angus calves in Ireland are selling for the same money as dairy calves.

"We're now pushing milk producers to use Longhorn sires on their dairy cows as the breed is the oldest traditional beef breed in the UK and is renowned for it's ease of calving characteristics which are both good news stories for the consumer,"

It was Mr Buitelaar's passion for calf rearing and animal welfare – two good news stories – that has enabled the family business to grow to the extent that he now buys 800-1200 calves per week of which 25% are pure Holstein bulls, thereby providing a true value and a life to such calves that are often shot at birth.

Having lived and worked in Spain, The Netherlands, Eire and Scotland, he first started buying 20 dairy bull calves per week in 2007, which were initially taken to collection centres before going on to contract rearing units up and down the country.

Calves from the dairy herd, either 100% dairy or beef-sired are bought on a weight per head basis at 14-41days of age, with payment to the farmer within seven days of age. These are either collected or taken to a collection centre of which there are four south of the Border.

These calves are finished at 200-220kg deadweight through the three Morrisons Woodheads abattoirs based in Turriff, Lincolnshire and Lancashire, with 40-50,000tonnes of beef sold to OSÍ, the main supplier to McDonald’s while the remainder is sold through the retail giants.

A growing amount is also sold as rose veal in top restaurants in London.

Such has been the growth in demand for such finished calves from Scotland that the company is also actively seeking rearing and finishing units north of the Border.

Mr Buitelaar, whose dairy calf rearing and finishing enterprise picked up no fewer than four industry accolades over the past year – to include an award from Compassion in World Farming which was adapted when the organisers were so impressed by the welfare of their calf rearing system – also believes a growing amount of finished cattle in the near future will be sold at lighter weights as young beef becomes more popular.

He also reckons abattoirs will soon be demanding carcase weights of less than 380kg if demand on the continent is anything to go by. In Spain, the average beef carcase weight is just 235kg, he said

But while consumer habits are changing in the west, Mr Buitelaar does nevertheless remain extremely confident for the future as the global demand for all red meat is increasing.