Last Thursday, June 25, saw the latest meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce – its third meeting, and first since January.

No especially groundbreaking developments occurred at last week’s video conference meeting. However, there seems to have been a number of issues raised which could possibly prove interesting over time.

One issue that came up was the three reports currently in the works by professional services firm Grant Thornton. The three reports cover: competition in the beef sector; market and customer requirements; and the price composition of the animal along the supply chain.

However, concerns were raised by some stakeholders that the third of these reports – on the pricing of the animal – did not take into account ‘transfer pricing’, i.e. processor profits being redirected to other business interests under the same ownership, and how this filters down to the prices paid by processors for cattle.

It was apparently decided at the meeting that this report would have a renewed focus on this issue before it is completed and released.

PGI status / grass-fed standard

Another issue that generated some contention was Bord Bia’s efforts to establish a grass-fed standard for Irish beef, and to seek protected geographic indication (PGI) status for grass-fed beef.

There seemed to have been some debate over what animals would be included in the PGI, and what the definition of ‘grass-fed’ would be.

There was yet more concern over who – or what – would actually own an Irish PGI product for beef.

On the grass-fed standard, it appears that these plans will be put out to public consultation, though it remains unclear when this will happen.

Meat processors

Representatives from Meat Industry Ireland (MII) were also in attendance to represent the processors.

However, it was strongly suggested by stakeholders that representatives from the individual processors should show up to the task force in future – rather than being represented by MII.

It remains to be seen if that is likely to occur.

The taskforce was apparently also told that the processors were not doing enough to hold up their end of the Beef Sector Agreement – the agreement that emerged from last summer’s factory gate protests.

According to some farmer representatives, this was a particular problem in terms of providing lairage weighing services for farmers.

Finally, in terms of retailers, taskforce members raised the prospect of getting retailers based in the UK (as opposed to those based in both the UK and Ireland), and who stock Irish beef, involved in the meetings.