The 30-month rule is touted by the beef processing sector has a major requirement for exporting beef produce…although farmers and farm organisations are less than convinced.

But how many countries (outside of the EU) actually stipulate that beef produce they import must be from animals aged under 30-months at slaughter?

In response to a recent parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue noted that beef exports to non-EU markets takes place on the basis of bilaterally or EU-agreed veterinary health certificates (VHCs) or, alternatively, on general meat certificates.

The minister said that eight VHCs (pertaining to eight countries) provide for the 30-month age restriction for Irish beef as required by the importing country at the time that the certificate was agreed, or a partial application of the rule for certain types of produce.

The eight countries that the these VHCs pertain to are:

  • China;
  • Iran;
  • Saudi Arabia;
  • Turkey;
  • Qatar;
  • Switzerland;
  • Egypt (applicable to bone-in beef);
  • Singapore (applicable to bone-in beef).

The rule previously also applied to beef exports to Japan. However, in May 2019, that restriction was lifted, as a result of “a significant programme of work over an 18-month time period”, according to the minister.

Minister McConalogue told deputy Carthy that “where there are stringent technical requirements attached to the export of meat to a third country, my department seeks to continue negotiations with such countries to remove or reduce the impact of the requirement”.

A follow-up question from Carthy queried if any non-EU countries Ireland exports beef to required the four-movement rule.

The minister said that no country currently requires this as part of a VHC, but retail or food services customers of Irish beef in those countries might have this requirement.

How many 30-month-or-less carcasses are exported?

In a separate parliamentary question, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice asked how many beef carcasses of animals aged under 30 months have been exported between 2018 and 2020.

The minister noted that there was no data that would provide a definitive answer to that, but he did note that around 71% of the approximately 1.3 million beef breed bovines slaughtered annually in both 2018 and 2019 were aged 30 months or less.

He also noted that around 90% of Irish beef is exported each year.