Factories label ICOS marts comments on beef specs as ‘disingenuous’

Recent comments by ICOS marts on beef specifications have been slammed as ‘disingenuous’ by Meat Industry Ireland (MII) which represents Irish meat processors.

In a recent study by ICOS’s Mart Division’s on the measures enforced by Irish meat factories in their ‘Quality Payment System’, it said they radically exceed the provisions of the Bord Bia Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme and are subverting the free trade of cattle in Ireland.

Commenting on ICOS study, Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) stated that the in-spec bonus is paid by individual processors to reward and incentivise the production of animals which meet market specifications.

He said the bonus simply reflects the animals most desired for the marketplace and the eligibility criteria in relation to residency period and number of farm residencies during the lifetime of the animal have not changed in recent years.

Cormac Healy MII
Cormac Healy MII

“It is disingenuous for some parties to refer to the non-achievement of a bonus as a penalty. Meeting these criteria is totally within producers’ control.

“Furthermore, Department of Agriculture data shows that over 90% of QA cattle satisfy the criteria, having no more than 4 farm residencies and residing on the final farm for over 70 days,” he said.

Healy said these issues have been addressed on numerous occasions in the Beef Roundtable.

“They are key customer requirements and this has been independently verified by Bord Bia at the 2015 Roundtable meetings.

“In fact, market research suggests that key customers’ preferences veer towards increasing residency periods reflecting the ongoing debate on ‘whole of life’ quality assurance,” he said.

Healy said that “there is a current malaise in the UK and wider EU market that underlines the need for tighter adherence to market specifications and key customer requirements.

He said any diminution in meeting such specifications will simply put Irish exports at a further disadvantage in the marketplace.

“We need to focus on working to ensure the small number of animals which currently fall short on these eligibility criteria actually meet them in the future and secure the bonus rather than moaning about meeting the demands of the everyday market,” he said.

Specs

The Bord Bia Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme allows for multiple movements between quality assured farms before and during the final 70-day period prior to slaughter.

However, the Irish factory ‘bonus system’ penalises more than four movements of livestock between farms prior to slaughter, for quality and animal welfare reasons.

Cattle that have moved farms in the last 70 days before slaughter are also penalised and don’t qualify for the Quality Payment System bonus, even if all farms are quality assured.

According to ICOS, while the factories contend that the basis for their restrictions is consumer driven there is no factual basis for this.