Ann Fitzgerald: 'Kepak's new direction on beef is a worry for suckler farmers'
Two recent moves by a meat processor have given the clearest indication yet of the changing landscape in Irish beef production.
A few weeks ago, Kepak and dairy processor Glanbia Ireland (GI) announced the establishment of a pilot "Twenty20" programme aimed at increasing the amount of beef coming from the dairy herd.
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It is anticipated that 6,000 calves will enter the scheme this year, rising to 50,000 by 2022. The club is open to Glanbia Co-op members and current Kepak suppliers.
The other move was Kepak's announcement that it was going to "temporarily suspend" the planned production of KK heifer beef this summer.
It explained that the main customer for KK heifer beef, Co-Op Italia, was "undertaking a review of its meat protein supply chains" and cited "changing customer preferences".
However, there are fears that this is a step towards the demise of a scheme which was once held up as the standard bearer of the Irish beef industry.
Set up in 1999, its aim is to produce beef for the high-priced Italian market. It is focussed on the production of Continental breed heifers and especially bulls. Animals are finished on a diet that ensures the meat is characterised by the pale colour and white fat valued by the target consumer.
Re the Twenty20, maybe I missed it, but the target market hasn't been specified.