Major Irish retailer accepts beef up to 36 months of age

A major Irish retailer has stated that it allows for beef derived from cattle aged up to 36 months at slaughter to be sold at its supermarkets.

The development follows repeated claims from Meat Industry Ireland (MII) ruling out any changes to factory specifications for the 30-month age limit for slaughtering cattle.

Despite extensive farmer opposition to the 30-month rule – labelled by many of the country’s farm organisations as an “anti-competitive practice” – the meat processor representative body, as recently as yesterday, Tuesday, August 27, said that the specification for many of the key customers of Irish beef is for under 30-month beef.

However, new information obtained by AgriLand suggests that this is not the case.

In response to a query from Fianna Fáil TD, Anne Rabbitte, who represents the Galway East constituency, Aoife Clarke, the head of communications for Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland, stated the following:

“I can confirm that Lidl’s requirement allows for beef derived from animals up to 36 months old and our minimum certification requirement is for Bord Bia Quality Assured beef under the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme.”

‘Unacceptable’

Speaking to AgriLand, Eoin Donnelly – who was the lead negotiator for the Beef Plan Movement during the recent round-table beef sector reform talks – responded to the statement from Lidl.

“This information is not coming from someone insignificant, this is coming from the head of communications at Lidl – a person of authority.

“This is a retail specification and our frustration now lies with Bord Bia reporting firstly that all retailers in Ireland require under 30-month beef – an issue we contested at the talks.

At the meeting we asked Bord Bia to disclose what retailers, from an Irish or UK perspective, have stated that it’s under 30-month beef that they require. Bord Bia could not disclose the position that those retailers held.

“To us that is unacceptable. A requirement that all farmers have to comply with is being hidden by anonymity. As genuine farmers we want it declared openly exactly what the requirement is.

“And, more importantly, we want to see the scientific substance behind why they want 30-month-old beef if that is the case – everything has to be open and transparent. They have to show us why it is a legitimate requirement,” said Donnelly.

China

On the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s market access portal it is stated that the 30-month age rule for slaughtered animals is a necessary condition for exporting frozen, boneless beef products to China.

The terms and conditions are outlined as part of the export certificate, in which the rule is included.

Officials from China are currently in Ireland to inspect 16 Irish meat plants, with a view to opening access for additional Irish beef plants to the Chinese market – approval has already been previously granted for seven processors.