Last week, saw Bord Bia release a statement saying that an officially recognised grass-fed standard for beef and dairy products is “at an advanced stage”, writes Dermot Kenneally, suckler farmer, Co. Clare.
The statement goes on to say that after “extensive market research” this standard represents “an opportunity to differentiate Irish exports from our competitors, and to add greater value”.
A few obvious questions immediately spring to mind. Firstly, and probably most importantly for suckler and beef farmers – how can we ensure that this ‘greater value’ will be passed on to the primary producer and not absorbed yet again by greedy retailers and processors?
There needs to be a tangible reward for farmers to actively buy into this. Secondly, Irish grass-fed suckler beef already has an international reputation as a premium and nutritious food.
This reputation has been hard-won over many years through the dedication and innovation of beef producers up and down the country. Do we really need another layer of bureaucracy imposed on farmers just to confirm this?
And thirdly, because this grass-fed standard includes dairy beef, is this just an attempt by Bord Bia to lump all our beef exports together under the one banner, forget about sourcing niche markets for our premium suckler beef and just sell burgers to McDonald’s?
This grass-fed standard seeks to intrinsically link a by-product of the dairy industry- dairy-beef- with our premium grass-fed suckler beef.
Our food marketing board claim that they’ll be no extra cost to farmers adhering to this standard but in my view, the cost will be enormous.
Bord Bia needs to be challenged on this before the reputation of the Irish beef industry is irrevocably damaged.
It’s time for our farm leaders and organisations to stand up and prove that they’re not sheep in wolves clothing. The time has come to put a bit of bite back into our farm lobby.