Bord Bia defends its marketing of Irish beef
British expert claims food body's tactics will backfire in US market
Bord Bia has rejected a warning that the "romantic" marketing of Irish beef as grass-fed in premium markets such as the United States and China is a recipe for failure.
British livestock commentator Robert Forster claims Bord Bia need to to establish a firm technical definition of precisely what grass-fed means.
Mr Forster said Bord Bia and the Agriculture Department appeared determined to "market Irish beef in romantic terms".
However, he argued it is not sufficient to try to appeal to consumer sentiment by underlining the connection between Irish beef, the beautiful landscape of the 'Emerald Isle' and nutrient rich grass as a result of its proximity to the Gulf Stream.
"This is soft-marketing and it is dangerous," claimed Mr Forster who publishes a weekly Beef Industry Newsletter in the UK.
He said other countries have set out firm qualifications to back the branding of grass-fed.
For example, the UK's Pasture-Fed Livestock Association restricts the beef sold under its label to cuts taken from cattle reared and finished exclusively on grass and forage crops while specifically excluding those offered rations containing cereals or concentrates.
However, Mr Forster admits that the UK situation is only slightly better than here - the UK Pasture-Fed Livestock Association has about 200 members - but the issue is more urgent for Ireland due to the heavy reliance on exports.