Factory-owned and factory-controlled feedlots are “important for ensuring” an all-year-round supply of in-spec cattle, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has stated.

The organisation – which represents the meat processing industry under the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) – was responding to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s newly published document which has monitored progress under Food Wise 2025.

The document – entitled ‘The Future of the Beef Sector in the Context of Food Wise 2025’ – has tabled 12 recommendations in response to significant farmer-led concerns over the current state of the beef sector.

Chief among these concerns are: feedlot operations; the quality payment system; and Brexit.

MII has welcomed the committee’s report, published earlier today, Tuesday, June 25, and has stated that it is “happy for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to look at the role of ‘controlled finishing units’ or feedlots in the sector”.

‘Controlled units are farmer owned’

Continuing, the organisation said: “The vast majority of controlled finishing units are farmer owned and operated. Factory-owned and factory-controlled feedlots account for less than 5% of cattle.”

The statement stressed that the most serious strategic challenges that face the sector are Brexit, climate change and the EU/Mercosur trade deal.

It further noted that the most imminent threat is presented by an EU/Mercosur trade agreement that could be finalised this week.

The agreement could see the European Commission grant additional access to the European market for vast quantities of low priced, less environmentally efficient beef from the South American trading bloc.

“Even at this late stage, the Government must resist this unacceptable undermining of domestic EU and Irish beef production.

“We must remain focused on the impending threat of a no-deal Brexit and also work collectively in the sector to meet our obligations as part of Ireland’s efforts to meet climate change commitments.”

Carcass grading

The automated carcass grading system that is in operation in Ireland is the most comprehensive approach to ensuring objective and consistent beef carcase classification according to the European Commission’s EUROP grading system in any member state.

Carcass grading also continues to be monitored and overseen by Department of Agriculture officials.

Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture will shortly publish an independent expert report on a recently conducted trial to assess an overall systems upgrade of the technology that will future proof its successful operation to high standards in Ireland.

Therefore, the recommendation of the agriculture committee on this topic is already actioned.

The essential elements of the Quality Payment System (QPS) are rewarding quality and market suitability.

“From its origins, the QPS was about rewarding better grading animals and animals that best meet the marketplace requirements. The current grid structure is based on science and yield.

Many stakeholders have called for a review of the QPS. They should come forward with their proposals but remember that science and market requirements will remain at the core of the QPS.

“Processors continue to work to expand and diversify markets across the globe.

“This is a strategic priority for the sector, as we deal with increasing supplies of cattle and seek to ensure that risks associated with a no-deal Brexit can be minimised.

“But equally, a no-deal scenario is one in which Government support for the entire sector is essential to ensure that we maintain a strong presence in the UK until the dust settles.”