It’s Thursday and Ear to the Ground time! This week the crew looks at Northern Ireland’s food safety regulations, the importance of local butchers and the latest innovative research into sexed semen technology. #Ettg

A year on from the horsemeat debacle, Ella Mc Sweeney asks have we learned the hard lessons? The food industry in Ireland still relies heavily on self-regulation. This approach led to serious trouble with the banks; could we be running a similar risk with our vital food industry?

Professor Chris Elliot of Queens University, Belfast tells Ella how Northern Ireland have invested heavily in building what he hopes will become a “food fortress”.  Ella asks what risks we may run in the Republic by not following suit?

2013 was a bumper year for local butchers as consumers shied away from supermarket meat in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. O’Dwyers butchers in Co Tipperary are just one of many butchers who benefited. They know the journey everything they sell takes, because they have produced it themselves.

They are a true family business; Martin and Marion raised their two daughters in the house above their butcher shop in Cashel and today the whole family is part of their food enterprise. They rear their own cattle, slaughter eight of them a week in their own abattoir and sell the fresh beef in their butcher shop. Helen Carroll drops in to see how it all works.

Mother Nature is a fan of mystery and surprise. Farmers are not. Jim White is a dairy farmer in Tipperary on a mission to take more control of the offspring produced by his cows. Jim is taking part in a national trial of sexed semen – whereby the farmer can choose to inseminate a cow with a heifer or a bull calf.

For Jim, it’s vital to have heifer calves to replace his cows. Sexed semen has given him a success rate of eight out of eight this season. Jim tells Darragh McCullough how this exciting new technology will increase productivity, efficiency and ultimately profitability on his farm.