‘There isn’t a consumer who knows all about suckler beef’ – Bord Bia CEO

As part of the agreement in the Beef Market Taskforce that brought a protected geographic indication (PGI) application for grass-fed beef to fruition, Bord Bia committed up to €6 million for promotion of a suckler beef brand.

One of the key issues to be resolved before such a promotion goes ahead is the lack of consumer knowledge around suckler beef.

“At the moment, there isn’t a consumer currently who knows all about suckler beef,” Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia, told AgriLand yesterday after the launch of the Bord Bia Export Performance and Prospects Report 2020/2021.

So what we need to do is to decide what elements of [suckler beef] are relevant to consumers, if any, and what will [make them want] to pay a premium for it. As a result of that then we would…come up with solutions.

McCarthy pointed out that the research at present would seem to indicate that Italy and Germany would be the markets most open to the concept of suckler beef.

She also noted: “We don’t believe we’ll get value for money as an industry with a sticker.

“What we’re looking to do is see what the consumer benefit is that we are looking to communicate to consumers who we want to pay a premium for the product,” she added.

PGI

On the PGI application, McCarthy highlighted that promotion of Ireland’s “grass-fed credentials” would continue regardless of whether the application was approved.

“Notwithstanding the PGI…what we’re committing to do is…to continue to build recognition for our grass-fed system and a grass-fed standard, rather than waiting to see if and when we get a PGI. We’re not using that as any reason to slow down our efforts,” the Bord Bia CEO said.

She also noted that a “mechanism” would have to be in place before future PGIs would be recognised in the UK, as the EU-UK agreement only recognises current PGIs.

“What we can control is our grass-fed marketing. We can’t control the timing of the PGI element. So we won’t stand and wait. We will be building and investing in that, which obviously will be an investment for when we have the PGI, but we will continue to invest rather than wait and do nothing,” McCarthy added.

She also said that Bord Bia had reached out to the Northern Ireland authorities on the possibility of including beef from north of the border if it meets the standard set out in the application, but she noted: “We can’t do it for them, they will have to do it.”