Early this year, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) pointed out that meat processing industry in the Philippines “continues to grow.”  This was due to the fact that more investments are poured by companies to expand their operations and produce world-class products despite intensifying global competitions.

In addition, PAMPI – which is a P200-billion sector composed of 48 companies involved in meat processing business – also banked on “the growing needs from institutional consumers” and “improved purchasing power of Filipinos.”

“The rising demand of institutional clients, like hotels, resorts, restaurants for locally manufactured processed meat gives players reason to expand and invest more, amid the influx of imported products,” wrote “The Freeman,” which quoted Felix O. Tukinhoy, PAMPI president.

The report also said the demand of tourism-related institutions is one of the biggest factors why the performance of the meat processing industry is booming in recent years “as these institutional clients prefer to order local products versus imported (ones) to save on cost.”

The Philippines is currently home to more than 100 million people.  “The outlook is favorable, we have growing population,” Tukinhoy pointed out.  “Most Filipinos have good purchasing power.”

In recent years, hotdogs, corned beef and other processed meat products have become very much a part of modern diet of Filipinos.  “And so, the Filipino meat processing industry has become a very profitable retail enterprise, and is therefore partly responsible for the sustained expansion of the Filipino livestock and poultry industry,” Tukinhoy was quoted as saying.

The meat processing business has indeed a bright future ahead.  “Meat consumption in developing countries has been continuously increasing from a modest average annual per capita consumption of 10 kilograms in the 1960s to 26 kilograms in 2000 and will reach 37 kilograms around the year 2030,” said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its projections.

“This forecast suggests that in a few decades, developing countries’ consumption of meat will move towards that of developed countries where meat consumption remains stagnant at a high level,” the UN food agency added.

Aside from what PAMPI stated, another factor that contribute to the popularity of processed meat is the growing population of people in the urban areas.  “The rising demand for meat in developing countries is mainly a consequence of the fast progression of urbanization and the tendency among city dwellers to spend more on food than in the lower income earning rural population,” FAO said.

Propensity for meat consumption among human beings has biological roots.  “In ancient times, meat was clearly preferred, consequently time and physical efforts were invested to obtain it, basically through hunting,” FAO reported.  “This attitude contributed decisively to physical and mental development of humankind. 

In time, meat processing became an industry in itself.  FAO defines meat processing – also known as further processing of meat – is “the manufacture of meat products from muscle meat, animal fat and certain non-meat additives. Additives are used to enhance product flavor and appearance.  They can also be used to increase product volume.”

For specific meat preparations, animal by-products such as internal organs, skin or blood, are also well suited for meat processing.  Meat processing can create different types of product composition that maximizes the use of edible livestock parts and are tasty, attractive and nourishing.

“Meat was originally processed to preserve it, but since the various procedures cause so many changes in texture and flavor it is also a means of adding variety to the diet,” explained another FAO document.  “Processing also provides scope to mix the less desirable parts of the carcass with lean meat and in addition is a means of extending meat supplies by including other foodstuffs such as cereal in the product.”

Processing is done because “meat is a highly perishable products and soon becomes unfit to eat and possibly dangerous to health through microbial growth, chemical change and breakdown by endogenous enzymes.”

There are several things to lessen these downsides.  These can be done by reducing the temperature sufficiently to slow down or inhibit the growth of micro-organisms, by heating to destroy organisms and enzymes (cooking, canning), or by removal of water by drying or osmotic control (binding the water with salt or other substances so that it becomes unavailable to the organisms). It is also possible to use chemicals to inhibit growth and, very recently, ionising radiation (however, the last is not allowed in some countries).

Traditional methods that have been used for thousands of years involve drying in wind and sun, salting and smoking. Canning dates from early in the 19th century and allows food to be stored for many years since it is sterilized and protected from recontamination.

“Processed meats are products in which the properties of fresh meat have been modified by the use of procedures such as mincing, grinding or chopping, salting and curing, addition of seasonings and other food materials, and, in many instances heat treatment,” FAO points out. “Most of these processes extend the shelf life of meat. Their manufacture, in most instances, depends on the ability of the mixture to retain water since they are emulsions of protein, fat and water.”

In the Philippines, the processed meat industry has six different product categories: fresh processed meat products, cured meat pieces, raw-cooked products, pre-cooked products, raw (dry) – fermented sausages, and dried meat.  Among those that are exported are sausages, corned beef, bacon, luncheon meat and other indigenous meat products.

“The country is a net exporter of processed meat products,” the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) wrote in its website.  In 2013 alone, the industry generated US$47.3 million in exports.

Major export markets include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan, the United States, Canada, Guam and Taiwan.  “The local industry imports around 85% of its raw material inputs, majority of its output meets domestic demand,” DTI said.

Despite the popularity of processed meat, there are some drawbacks.  In fact, there were reports that some meats being sold in the market are not safe for consumption.  Fortunately, the government is not lax on this. 

In a paper, “The Meat Inspection Code of the Philippines: Securing Meat and Meat Products’ Safety from Farm to Table,” authors Albert P. Aquino and Christian L. Abeleda wrote: “Protection and promotion of the right to health of the people (Section 15, Article II) and protection of consumers from trade malpractices from substandard or hazardous products (Section 9, Article XVI) are State’s obligations stipulated in the Philippine Constitution of 1987.”

So much so that in July 2003, the Republic Act No. 9296 was signed and ordained those who are implementing the Meat Inspection Code “to strengthen the country’s meat inspection system to assure safety and quality of meat and meat products for human consumption both in the domestic and international markets.”

Under this law, it is the State’s policy to, among others, (a) promulgate specific policies and procedures governing the flow of food animals; (b) ensure food security and provide safety and quality standards to assure the protection of public against risks of injury and hazard; and (c) support the livestock and poultry industry development and promote animal health by preventing the entry of disease-carrying animals in meat establishments.

The Meat Inspection Code of the Philippines laid guidelines on the following area: institutional mechanisms, scope of meat inspection, ante- and post-mortem inspection, inspection of imported meat and meat products, sanitation, product quality and safety, product information and consumer awareness, fees and charges, and prohibited acts and sanctions.

An attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS) serves as the national controlling authority on all matters pertaining to meat and meat product inspection and hygiene.

Among those that have to be inspected are slaughterhouses, poultry dressing plants, meat cutting plants, meat processing plants, cold storages, meat shops, meat markets and other outlets engaged in domestic and international trade.

“Only meat control and inspector officers duly appointed and designated by the NMIS or local government units are authorized to conduct meat inspection work,” Aquino and Abeleda wrote in their paper.  “NMIS has the responsibility to ensure, and to enforce, that meat establishments operate in accordance with humane slaughter and hygienic requirements.”

In addition, “the NMIS has the power to limit entry of carcasses, meat and meat products, and other materials into any meat establishment. By rule, only slaughtered food animals, inspected and passed by inspectors from NMIS accredited slaughterhouses shall be utilized in NMIS accredited meat processing plant for meat processing, meat canning and packing.”

In recent years, there are groups who are batting for meatless society.  But when it comes to protein, meat and other animal foods are quantitatively and qualitatively better sources than plant foods (except soy bean products).  In meat, the essential amino acids – the organic acids that are integral components of proteins and which cannot be synthesized in the human organism – are made available in well balanced proportions and concentrations.

“Despite the growing preference in some circles for meatless diets, the majority of us will continue eating meat,” FAO pointed out.  “It is generally accepted that balanced diets of meat and plant food are most effective for human nutrition.”