Carcass crunch: Farmers prepared to spend Christmas in Ag House

Members of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Livestock Committee have gathered in Agriculture House, the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to stage a sit-in protest in response to the issue of excessive carcass trimming by meat factories.

AgriLand got the views of three prominent members of the committee on why exactly they are protesting and what their concerns are.

The national chairman of the IFA Livestock Committee, Angus Woods, outlined the reasons behind the sit-in.

He explained: “What we have here is we have the members of the IFA National Livestock Committee in here in Ag House and we have some really serious concerns in relation to the minister and the fact that the minister won’t identify the factories involved in illegal trimming of carcasses on farmers’ behalf.

“These farmers are making a fair sacrifice to be here for a week or two,” he said.

Image source: Finbarr O’Rourke

“We have spent a good few years trying to get it to the position it’s in at the moment where there are AOs (agriculture officers) currently in the factories.

But, given that the beef sector is famous for its lack of transparency within the sector, for the minister to have the names of the factories that have been illegally trimming and taking farmers’ money, and not disclosing it to farmers, that’s wrong and that situation can’t continue

The chairman claims that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has been “slow” to engage with the committee.

Elaborating, he said: “It’s taken a long, long time to get to where we are in terms of getting the AOs into the factory and we welcome that. But, we need them to be monitoring the carcasses on a permanent basis, not just on a temporary basis.

The minister needs to come out, be open and frank, and let us know exactly what factories have been fined for illegally trimming.

“It’s farmers’ money; farmers have a right to know. The minister should not be covering up for the factories,” he said.

Compensation

Donegal IFA Livestock Committee chair Frank McClean also gave his views on the protest.

“The purpose is to highlight certainly the factories fined for excessive trimming of carcasses and we want the minister to name the factories which were involved in this practice. We also want to get the farmers compensation for the carcasses that were involved.

“The minister hasn’t really engaged with us – that’s why we’re here today; we haven’t been able to let our thoughts be known.”

Image source: Finbarr O’Rourke

Meanwhile, the vice-chairman of the IFA Livestock Committee, Brendan Golden, gave more information on the matter.

He said: “For the last three years we’ve had a big issue with carcass trim in factories and we weren’t happy with how it was being monitored. We’ve been pushing it with the department for the last three years.

During the summer of this year we did get it across the line in that they were providing 150 officers to monitor the trim to a higher degree.

“But we’re still not happy that there’s been enough accountability on that score, so we think it’s the minister’s responsibility to show farmers that we are getting paid for everything that we produce.

“We feel that he needs to actually name the factories that were involved and bring more accountability into it – and that’s one of the main purposes why we’re here today,” he said.

Live export concerns

Golden also highlighted concerns that the farm organisation has in relation to live exports out of the country.

There’s issues coming up on the live export side of it in that the window for exporting is being cut down to 14 days from 29.

“And that’s really going to cause problems for exporters trying to move cattle out of the country.

“We don’t want to see any obstacles or road blocks in that space, so we want him to do as much as he possibly can to make the export of cattle out of the country as free-flowing as possible,” he said.