It is now incontestable that the Food Ombudsman’s office needs to be ramped up with additional legislation to create an effective regulator for the beef chain.
That is the view of ICSA president, Dermot Kelleher, who said Ireland “must determine the truth behind who gets what margin from the food chain”.
He believes that Meat Industry Ireland’s recent claims that farmers receive 80% of revenue generated from Irish beef sales have only increased anger about fairness in the food chain.
The farm leader referred to findings from a Grant Thorthorn report presented to attendees at the most recent Beef Market Taskforce meeting.
“For starters, the report is hampered by an apparent lack of full co-operation from some players in the food chain.”
“It seems there is nothing that can be done to overcome this. The consultants simply have no power to compel retailers or processors to co-operate.”
“ICSA has been in receipt of a letter from Aldi which says that they have been fully co-operative. However, it is clear that not all players in the food chain are forthcoming with worthwhile information. We need a full explanation from Grant Thornton on where the lack of co-operation is emanating from.”
“Both the primary producer and the consumer should be entitled to know, at least at the aggregate level, where the margins are being made and whether food is priced fairly or not.”
Furthermore, he stated that the fifth quarter (offal, hide etc) is also a “very opaque area”. Kelleher said it is clear to the farm group that statutory agencies have “a very limited grasp” of what this is worth to processors.
“We see pet food superstores selling various fifth quarter pieces such as trachea, lung and other previously low or no value pieces as pet ‘treats’ priced at €19-28/kg.”
“It is astounding that we are led to believe that consumers find prime beef cuts dear at €10-24/kg, yet the same consumers have no bother forking out more for the leftovers for their pets.”
“These are sold without any worry about the in-spec requirements, and there is no real added-value or marketing costs.”
ICSA believes that there must be the political will to “get to the bottom of this”. This, Kelleher added, is why robust legislation is required to get accurate answers.