‘Consumers want their bread buttered on both sides’ – ICMSA AGM hears

The AGM of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) is being held today, Friday, November 29, in Limerick, and sustainability demands on farmers were extensively discussed.

During a panel discussion on the issue of: ‘Calf Welfare – Protecting our Social Licence and Creating Value’, Teagasc researcher Laura Boyle commented: “Consumers seem to want their bread buttered on both sides.”

“They want food that is very high in welfare standards and is very safe, but is also very cheap, and it’s very hard to deliver both at the same time.

“I think consumers have to do their bit as well in terms of being willing to spend more on a product that ticks the boxes that they are demanding from the food system,” Boyle argued.

According to Boyle, consumer demands in terms of animal welfare and the environment are becoming issues that would have to be addressed in light of the expansion of the dairy sector. He commented: “It’s time now I think to take stock.”

Among the other panel members was Bord Bia senior meat and livestock manager Joe Burke, who also addressed the issue of expansion, particularly in relation to calves and the beef sector.

“With the very seasonal nature of the supply of those calves, the number of beef farmers who are in the market at any given time, who are willing or looking to purchase calves, is limited,” Burke highlighted.

He argued: “It’s about trying to have a product where they [beef farmers] can have the minimum amount of problems with it when they buy it, when they take it home, and that they’re going to be able to maximise the value of that animal.”

Like Boyle, Burke stressed the changing trends among consumers at the moment.

Other key factors will certainly include animal welfare; environmental sustainability; and the health aspect of the product with regards to how nutritious it is.

However, Burke pointed out that: “Some consumers’ decisions are made for them by the retailers or manufacturers that buy the product from farmers.”