Bord Bia called on to ‘honour taskforce agreement’ on ‘naturally reared’ beef

Bord Bia is being called on to stick to the agreement reached at the Beef Market Taskforce in October to include the term “naturally reared” in the promotion of suckler beef.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) said that this term was needed to “provide a marketing distinction” in European and UK markets.

Colm O’Donnell, the association’s president, said: “This was initially included in our 10-point plan for the suckler industry launched in July 2019 and was subsequently accepted by all stakeholders on the beef taskforce.”

O’Donnell said he was “disappointed” to see the results of a recent Bord Bia survey which showed that the term ‘suckler’ was generally not well-recognised by consumers in target markets.

“If the survey had been conducted using the term ‘naturally reared’ suckler beef, it is most likely that there would have been a much higher recognition of the type of beef on offer,” he said.

The INHFA president said: “Unfortunately, we can’t now change what has happened, but it is vital, in the best interests of our suckler farmers and the integrity of the stakeholder committee, that the words ‘naturally reared’ are included in all communications from Bord Bia that refer to our suckler brand.

“All Irish beef is currently marketed by visual communication using the photo of a prime beef calf with its mother. This shows that consumers value and recognise the visual concept of naturally reared beef and this is why Bord Bia needs to ensure consistency in its communication on any suckler beef brand,” O’Donnell concluded.

Lack of consumer knowledge

As part of the agreement in the Beef Market Taskforce that brought a protected geographic indication (PGI) application for grass-fed beef to fruition, Bord Bia committed up to €6 million for promotion of a suckler beef brand.

However, one of the key issues Bord Bia has highlighted before such a promotion goes ahead is the lack of consumer knowledge around suckler beef.

“At the moment, there isn’t a consumer currently who knows all about suckler beef,” Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia, told AgriLand earlier this month.

“So what we need to do is to decide what elements of [suckler beef] are relevant to consumers, if any, and what will [make them want] to pay a premium for it. As a result of that then we would…come up with solutions,” McCarthy added.