‘Irish beef exports to the UK tend to be for standard ranges’

The beef demanded from Irish processors by retail customers in the UK tends to be for their standard ranges and not for premium products, according to Bord Bia’s Joe Burke.

According to Bord Bia’s Livestock Manager, certain British retailers have a tighter specification for their premium offerings which are entirely compromised of British beef.

These specifications which may include breed and class of stock. These premium lines are exclusively comprised of British beef, said Burke.

The volumes and types of Irish beef exports to the UK also vary according to the availability of UK beef, the time of the year and the promotions that are taking place, said Burke.

Burke added that there is very little Irish beef exported to the UK in the form of carcass beef, with the majority of Irish beef exports taking the form of forequarter beef.

The large majority of the Irish beef supplied to UK retailers is forequarter beef for mince, followed by round cuts for roasting joints and a relatively small proportion relates to steak cuts.

However, Burke added that carcass specification is still very important because cattle of superior conformation and appropriate fat cover result in the highest yield of saleable meat.

Similarly, he said, heavy carcasses may result in cuts of beef which are too large for some customers’ requirements.

Irish Beef from the Dairy Herd

One of the major issues Irish beef farming will potentially face is the increase in beef animals coming forward from the dairy herd.

There has been a major increase in first cross dairy calves coming from the dairy herd, added Burke.

To-date this year, calf registrations to Irish dairy cows have risen by 114,000 head. Interestingly, the big increase within these figures relates to beef cross calves.

“In particular, calves which were sired by either an Angus or a Hereford bull are running more than 70,000 higher,” said Burke.

The Bord Bia beef specialist added that these animals will generally have superior carcass attributes to pure-dairy progeny, which can also be marketed through breed-specific programmes, which return price bonuses.

“These breed-specific programmes return price bonuses to producers as processors have developed branded beef ranges which command premium prices in certain markets.”