Battling to beat the horsemeat scandal
Published 23/01/2013 | 06:00
Horsemeat in Irish beef burgers; who'd ever have thought we'd end up in a mess like this?
Incredibly, the latest reports from Bord Bia and the meat companies suggest that demand for Irish beef on most markets, and particularly those on the Continent, is holding well.
But damage has been done, particularly in the British market and especially for processed beef.
As the crisis unfolds, two questions remain to be answered: How did an Irish beef burger end up with 29pc of the content being horsemeat?
And will the Department change its traceability and quality assurance regimes to include ingredients added by processors?
Retail analysts are predicting a fall-off in processed beef sales in Britain as a result of the controversy. This is bad news for Ireland as factories here produce 50,000t of minced beef each year. It's only a fraction of the overall business, but it's still worth €200m annually.
But while a fall-off in exports in this end of the business would be worrying, of far greater concern is the reputational damage that has been done to Irish beef and to the traceability and quality assurance procedures that helped underpin that reputation.
At a recent meat markets seminar in Dublin, speakers from Bord Bia and the Department repeatedly stressed that our beef traceability and quality assur-ance schemes were critical to Irish beef processors gaining access to high-value markets within the EU and beyond.