Consumers warming to frozen meats

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans have been steadily warming to frozen chicken and pork - the two most popular meats here - as they look for ways to stretch their dollar.

Prices of frozen meats can be around 50 per cent lower than that of their fresh counterparts as they are easier to package and have a longer shelf-life.

At Giant's Turf City outlet, frozen boneless pork loin from Brazil costs $10.50 a kg. The fresh version from Australia costs $15.80 a kg. At NTUC FairPrice in Jurong East, chilled chicken from Malaysia costs $8.50 per kg. Frozen chicken wings from Brazil are $8.70 for every 1.95kg.

The widening price gap between fresh or chilled meat and frozen meat may be the main force pushing up demand here, but suppliers point to another reason: improvements made in freezing technology.

Mr Chung Suan Lim, president of the Meat Traders' Association (Singapore), said that "blast freezing" - where items are frozen instantly after slaughter to maintain a degree of freshness - is now widespread in the industry. He added that the difference in prices will continue to widen.

But frozen beef has not had the same success as consumers tend to view the meat as a premium product and prefer the fresh version, he noted.

Figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) attest to more consumers warming to frozen meats.

Frozen pork consumption here has risen from 57,600 tonnes in 2008 to 71,900 tonnes last year.

Consumption of chilled pork fell by 1,700 tonnes to 35,900 tonnes in the same time period.

Local consumption of frozen chicken has jumped from 94,500 tonnes in 2008 to 105,200 tonnes last year, similar to the rise in consumption of chilled chicken in percentage terms. On the other hand, frozen beef consumption fell from 15,800 tonnes in 2008 to 13,600 tonnes last year.

The agency attributes the trend in part to its Frozen Meat Public Education Programme launched in early 2008.

The programme has several aims: to encourage consumers to eat more frozen meat and importers to bring in more frozen produce, and to reduce Singapore's dependence on chilled varieties.

Earlier this month, there were initial concerns about fresh pork supply to Singapore when workers at an Indonesian pig farm went on a week-long strike. The farm is the sole supplier of live pigs to Singapore.

Chilled and frozen pork products are imported from countries such as Australia and Brazil.

The AVA data is also reflected in the rising sales of such meats at supermarkets. At FairPrice, sales of frozen pork jumped by more than 45 per cent last year. Other supermarket chains - like Sheng Siong and Cold Storage - have reported increased demand for frozen meats like pork and chicken.

Consumers like Mrs Cherie Teo, 45, started using frozen minced pork and frozen chicken breasts to cook meals last year.

"I usually stir-fry the chicken and minced pork with sauce and other items. The frozen ones are cheaper and you cannot taste the difference," said the mother of two. "But for beef, we still take fresh."

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