The animal identification and movement system (AIM) is not used to penalise farmers, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

Minister Creed made the comments recently in response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fail’s Agriculture Spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue.

He said: “The AIM data provided to the factories includes registration and movement history data for an animal – which is already recorded on the animal’s passport that accompanies the animal to the factory.

“AIM provides the data in electronic format to assist factories in marketing Irish beef and beef products; and to provide reassurances to consumers on Irish beef and beef products.”

Meanwhile, the Quality Payment Scheme (QPS) is an agreement between Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Minister Creed added.

This is an agreement on the payment arrangements for cattle that meet certain carcass confirmation and fat score criteria, he said.

The aim of the scheme is to encourage production of cattle with better conformation and fat scores through the rewarding of bonus payments to farmers.

“In addition to the QPS, a Quality Assured bonus – operated by meat processors – is paid on certain animals that fulfil a number of criteria; one of which is the total number of farm residencies in the animals’ lifetime.

“It is important to note all qualifying criteria, including the number of farm residencies of an animal, are entirely matters outside the remit of my department,” Minister Creed said.

He added that it was agreed, during discussions with the farming organisations and MII, that the AIM system would provide the number of farm residences for each bovine animal entering a factory.

This would be carried out in order to assist in identifying if the animal qualifies for the additional premium payment.

Lower prices

Earlier this month, it was claimed that some factories are effectively using movement records from the AIM system as a trade distorting measure to pay lower prices.

That was according to Ray Doyle, of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), who was speaking at the national Beef Forum on July 12.

He said the AIM system should not be open to third parties to view and access all prior animal movement data.

Movement criteria are a trade issue, not a quality issue.

“Either an animal is eligible for sale and slaughter or it’s not and that’s the only identifier that AIM should make known to third parties,” Doyle, who is the ICOS National Marts Executive, said.