Debate mounts over beef coming through UK

Bord Bia needs to answer “major questions” on Irish beef being sent to the UK for further processing, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

The INHFA’s president Colm O’Donnell has asked “how the ‘farm to fork’ slogan adopted by Bord Bia can be justified when this beef has been processed in a meat plant outside the country?”.

However, Bord Bia has moved to clarify the nature of the farm organisation’s assertions.

In a statement, O’Donnell said: “This is a question raised by members contacting our office this morning [Friday, September 13] and one that Bord Bia now needs to answer.

We need clarity from Bord Bia as part of a full external investigation into the beef sector.

The INHFA’s concerns have come to light following a recent statement issued from Aldi outlining that some Irish beef and pork used in its stores is being transported to the UK for “additional processing”.

This situation is happening due to the fallout from the ongoing dispute between farmers and processors over beef price lows and industry-spec requirements.

The statement issued by Aldi outlined that the UK-based processing facilities being used “are all quality assured by Bord Bia”.

Tara McCarthy, the CEO of Bord Bia, has also weighed in on the development to explain the details on such Irish beef coming through the UK. She has emphasised that any product coming through this route has the “quality mark” on it.

Speaking in Co. Kilkenny earlier, McCarthy said: “We [Bord Bia] have arrangements that we can – for further processing – inspect plants overseas, allowing quality assured product to arrive in many of our retail customer outlets throughout Europe.

“In this instance, Irish product had been sent to the UK for further processing. So it is still quality assured product and it will have the Bord Bia logo on it,” she said.

Beef sector talks

Meanwhile, on the matter of the beef sector reform talks, the INHFA’s president said an agreement between processors and farmer representatives is possible “provided there is a willingness by processors to engage in good faith on price and the 30-month rule”.

The actions taken by farmers are not just a reaction to recent price reductions, but a statement of intent that they will no longer be taken for granted and have their livelihoods undermined.

“In order to find a solution we need a more conciliatory approach from the processors and engagement with all stakeholders, including representatives of the protesting farmers,” he said.