The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has made a comprehensive submission to the opposition procedure for the application for a PGI status for Irish grass-fed beef by Bord Bia.

The ICSA suckler committee chairman Ger O’Brien explained that: “ICSA opposes the one size fits all application because it is too diluted and undermines the potential to get a premium price for specialist suckler beef production.”

He added that the ICSA, as an officially recognised representative association of suckler and beef farmers, has a legitimate interest in the application and ICSA is concerned about the future viability of the suckler sector.

This application represents a missed opportunity to build a brand around suckler beef. It is a less intensive farming system with much lower use of medicines and outside interventions.

“It offers the highest level of animal welfare and it is critical to the economies of disadvantaged areas,” he added.

“ICSA contends that the concept and purpose of a speciality designation is to achieve a premium price for a special and unique product.

“In order to satisfy the demands of beef processors and dairy farmers, the outcome is that the potential to achieve a premium price for suckler beef is compromised,” O’Brien concludes.

Some of the grounds that ICSA is opposing the PGI application are:
  • The inclusion of most dairy derived beef means that it is too diluted to achieve a premium price for suckler beef;
  • There has been insufficient consultation with the primary producer;
  • There is no clarity about the ownership of the PGI;
  • The EU Commission has suggested that these designations typically return a premium of 30%.  However, Bord Bia has played down any ambition for a premium price and suggested it might be worth 5%;
  • The creation of a generic PGI for grass-fed beef is totally incoherent with the promise by Bord Bia to develop a suckler or natural beef brand;
  • The exclusion of R&U grade young bulls (under 16 months) further disadvantages the suckler sector and this has not been properly consulted on;
  • There has not been sufficient explanation of the colour requirements for the meat and fat and this cannot be used by meat processors as a means to deny any premium and penalise farmers;
  • There is no dedicated oversight process or board to manage the PGI in which the interests of farmers can be protected, in line with the concept of PGI which is producer focused.  Therefore, there should be a steering group/ board with majority farmer representation.

The ICSA says that this PGI application has failed to allocate sufficient weight to the need for using PGI status as a targeted intervention to deliver a premium price for suckler beef farmers.

The association is insisting that there needs to be a full consultation with farmer representatives to agree a strategy for PGI going forward before this application is progressed any further.

The ICSA joins the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) which has also officially lodged an opposition statement to the current PGI application for Irish grass-fed beef.