It has been confirmed that a voluntary beef label has been approved by the North’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to allow beef from cattle that originate in the Republic of Ireland, but which are finished and processed in Northern Ireland, to be described as ‘Irish’ according to Northern Irelands Meat Exporters’ Association (NIMEA) Chief Executive Phelim O’Neill.

This voluntary label is in addition to the compulsory label, which states the country or countries of origin where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered in. It is a similar approval process and concept as has been in place for some time to describe Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and organic beef.

“I understand from media reports that Tesco has been strongly lobbied from farmer representatives in the Republic of Ireland to avail of this label so as to accommodate beef from store cattle bought in the Republic of Ireland by Northern finishers. But I am not aware of Tesco having made any decision on this matter yet.”

The NIMEA representative went on to strongly urge Northern beef finishers to check the relevance of this development with their processers, before importing store cattle from South of the border.

Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill has consistently expressed her strong view that the term ‘nomad cattle’ has no place on this island and, following her recent approval of the voluntary “Irish” label, is hopeful that this issue can now be resolved.

The Minister said: “The ability to label beef derived from such cattle as “Irish” will hopefully open new market opportunities with British retailers for local processors. It should also assist the long standing tradition of trading cattle across the island of Ireland, particularly store cattle coming from the west of Ireland for finishing and slaughter in the north. Consumers will still be fully informed about the origin of the beef they are buying, as beef from such cattle must be labelled with compulsory origin information under EU law”.