Horsemeat and the events industry

There is much soul-searching in the UK and now the wider European Union after the discovery of horsemeat in a large number of beef products.  Discovered in both lower quality products and supermarket chains right up to the more costly and reputable options, the story is rapidly evolving across the F&B and retail industries. Although some of our continental cousins regular dine on “steak cheval”, this constitutes a major scandal for the public at large and the EU are scrambling to advise their national members. Read latest developments here  . More than 200 million beef burgers have been withdrawn from sale in the last month in Ireland alone and the crisis threatens to sully some very large brands, notably Findus who’s 100% beef lasagnes products, whether 320g, 360g or 500g all have horsemeat present.

So what has this got to do with the meetings industry ,or for the sake of this article -the “meatings industry”?

Price isn’t everything

The principle lesson is  that price is not everything- those among us in procurement in any sector would be wise to focus on seeking value rather than the lowest price- if you force your suppliers to make unhealthy cuts, evidence illustrates they will have less qualms about making unhealthy and in some cases immoral decisions.


Courtesy of Thinkstock

Know your Suppliers

It seems simple, but many organisations do not know where there are getting their goods from and in this case, even what those goods are. For our business we build deep relationships with our suppliers, in many countries we’ve actually organised what’s called the “MCI Pub” where we invite all our local suppliers to a social event just to get to know them better and build relationships. Senior staff become waiters for the evening and serve the suppliers in an ironic reversal. For more advanced clients, we evaluate the sustainability credentials of all the hotels for their event and produce a ranking on the event website to consider along with price and star rating- such scorecards for the supply chain are increasingly evident across a number of industries.

The Search for Authentic Brands

In dark times such as these, customers are looking for brands they can trust- open, honest transparent and engaging brands. Think of all the authentic brands over the years that have been bought out by the larger corporations; Body Shop by L’Oreal, Innocent Smoothies by Coca Cola and Ben and Jerrys by Unilever just to name a few. People buy from brands they trust and we’ve helped a number of leading brands demonstrate their sustainability principles, really bringing their values alive through live events- the key touch point for your customer and suppliers to engage with the brand. For those among us who say “who cares about CSR?”.  Here’s the evidence- responsible business matters and if you aren’t taking responsibility seriously with your supply chain it might come back to haunt you, lets ask Findus in a few months time.

Local Sourcing

The good news to come out of this crisis is that the local town butcher across Europe will benefit greatly from the failure of companies to take responsibility seriously. When people ask us “how do we green our event?” . We answer simply, when it comes to F&B- FLOSS! Floss is the abbreviation for Fresh, Local, Organic, Sustainable and Seasonal and there’s a growing movement around the world promoting local suppliers to homes and industry- go check them out!


  1. padraicino says:

    This is a great post Roger and you demonstrate clearly what the consequences are when the supply chain gets squeezed too much. You draw lessons relative to CSR and Sustainability but similar lessons could be drawn in the Destination Services arena where the desire to procure at the cheapest price can lead to all sorts of destination difficulties for the client.

  2. Shawna Mckinley says:

    Hi Roger – Thanks for making the connection between this current news item and events! Feel in particular your advice to “know your supplier” is a key one. If a planner were to start to meaningfully inquire into their F&B supply chain I think many would find it incredibly eye-opening how many degrees of separation exist between them as a buyer and the growers of food eaten at an event. The chain from the caterer to a possible subcontractor used for food prep, through multiple distributors and produce brokers who may purchase from numerous farms make it tough to really know where most commercially prepared food at events comes from. And the time to unpack this information is often not available within most event timelines in order to make a difference. So yes, consider suppliers – as early as possible! And ideally use your buying power to choose those who have already researched and can provide transparent information about their supply chain all the way back to farm.

  3. Roger Simons says:

    Thanks both for your comments- it’s a fascinating area. Caught an excellent programme on the deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil and the growing cattle industry there displacing tribes and destroying 20% of the amazon rainforest as we know it in the past years. It’s fascinating what a ripple effect one can have just by buying locally from a trusted supplier, not only do you avoid some of the issues adressed bove but you are having a ripple effect much further around the world- reducing demand and pressure on resources such as the amazon basin. Sadly, not everyone has the budget or concern to avoid the cheapest option!

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