Beef: British farmers beef with Irish imports doesn't stand up to scrutiny
Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30
Last week I spent three days along the east coast of England on a whistle stop tour of beef finishing units. As is the norm when meeting with British beef farmers, the importation of Irish beef and its effect on the British beef price invariably comes up in conversation.
I always counter this argument by pointing out that the feed input prices are normally much lower than here in Ireland due to the widespread availability of human food waste, brewing and distilling by-products and energy/ ethanol production.
The marketing of British beef through various schemes along with the use of the Red Tractor brand, creates great consumer awareness and ensures a price premium over imported beef in restaurants and supermarkets.
These factors make it difficult to understand the British beef farmers' obsessive complaints about Irish beef being 'dumped' on their market. Looking a little closer to home may serve them better.
As highlighted, there are many competitive advantages that British beef farmers have in regards to production costs.
On every visit across the water, I always notice the opportunity that is being lost through the poor use of grazed grass. While a high importance is placed in Britain on the production of high quality forage, the utilisation of quality grazed grass is greatly neglected.
This is common in both the beef and dairy sectors, with the crisis in the British dairy industry highlighting the need to produce more milk from grazed grass. The utilisation of grazed grass is in stark contrast with the excellent results being achieved here in Ireland.
British cereal farmers are getting low grain prices, in many cases even lower than prices here. Traditionally, English beef finishers relied heavily on cheap cereals, having developed 'barley beef' systems that gave great performance at low input costs.