ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has challenged Tesco to produce independently verifiable research to confirm its recently reported assertions that UK consumers don’t want beef from animals born in the Republic of Ireland and slaughtered in the North.

In a recent letter to Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness, Tesco stated that its research shows that its consumers want beef from simple supply chains that are easy to understand and clearly labelled. The statement went on to say that mixed origin labelling can be confusing to its customers and it does not have any plans to source mixed origin cattle.

However Edmond Phelan is highly critical of the retailers position: “Tesco are treating their consumers like children,” he said. “We’re not talking here about animals born thousands of miles from where they are finished and slaughtered. There is little or no difference between beef production methods and standards in the Republic and the North, and we find it hard to believe that a British consumer would object to beef from an animal born in County Monaghan and finished in County Down.”

“If labelling really is an issue, then why not come up with a straightforward labelling system such as used in other countries? Italian consumers seem to have no problem understanding the mixed-origin labels on beef from cattle raised in Ireland and finished in Italy.

“The hyping up of outdated distinctions like the 30-month requirement is another example of the artificial obstacles used by retailers to manipulate the market,” continued Mr. Phelan. “Are we really to believe that the consumer is happy to eat beef from a 29-month old animal but not from one that is 31 months old? These fabricated excuses which undermine farm viability are no longer acceptable and must end now.”