Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Beef men dicing with disaster

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The allegation this week that one of our top beef breeders was using a carcinogenic painkiller to maximise the chances of his stock winning in the show-ring simply beggars belief.

If the claims prove true, his actions will leave his own reputation within the breeding circuit in tatters. However, it's the potential damage to the reputation of the €2bn beef industry that I'm more worried about.

A little more than 12 months ago we were reeling from the actions of the meat factories that played fast and loose with the reputation of their industry when it emerged that they were mixing horsemeat into burgers that were being sold as 100pc beef.

Nobody wants to be sold horse, or any other animal for that matter, when they think they are buying beef.

But it was the risk of meat contaminated with phenylbutazone, or bute as it's more commonly called, getting into our food chain that was the real issue.

Hammer blow

When horsemeat story broke in January 2013 the entire sector collectively held its breath, as it waited for a BSE-type hammer blow to prices and market reputation. Luckily for the Irish beef industry, it quickly emerged that the use of undocumented horsemeat was not a practice confined to these shores. As the stain spread, so did the blame and accountability.

With this horsemeat saga so fresh in the memory, the notion that farmers would knowingly use a drug like bute on their beef animals, which are invariably destined for our consumption, is very unsettling.

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Even more worrying is the fact that the individual at the centre of these allegations is widely regarded as one of the top breeders in the country, with a farm that was regularly held up as a model of progressive farming.

The Department of Agriculture's Special Investigation Unit gets its fair share of negative comments in farming circles, but it's at times like this that we should be glad that we can call on these heavyweights to ensure that everything is above board.

Meat factory bosses were heavily criticised by farmers over the horsemeat scandal.

But if the latest allegations stack up, farmers may have to take a harder look at some people within their own ranks if they want a fighting chance at making their sector profitable.

Indo Farming