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Bord Bia 'revises scope' of grass-fed beef criteria - lets young bulls into standard

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An Irish stands under the Bord Bia banner at the Anuga Food Fair in Cologne

An Irish stands under the Bord Bia banner at the Anuga Food Fair in Cologne

An Irish stands under the Bord Bia banner at the Anuga Food Fair in Cologne

Bord Bia has revised ithe scope of its proposal for grass fed beef to allow young bull beef into the new standard, which it plans to roll out from the autumn to help promote Irish beef.

It comes after IFA raised issues with the proposed exclusion of young bulls beef in the proposed new standard for beef. Last month IFA President Tim Cullinan said a number of aspects of the scheme needed clarification.

“There are several aspects of this application which need further clarification. Farmers pay €6m a year to Bord Bia. We are the ones who are creating this brand for the industry through our grass-fed animals, but we have not been properly consulted.”

In a statement today, Bord Bia said that "the development of the grass fed standard for Irish beef has involved ongoing, active consultation between Bord Bia and key stakeholders.

"In response to feedback received, Bord Bia has now formalised its proposal to adapt the scope of the standard to accommodate young bull beef."

This means young bull beef will now be eligible to be assessed in the grass fed standard, along with steers, heifers and cows. Young bulls will be treated the same as other animal categories with their qualification as grass fed being dependent on meeting the criteria of the standard in relation to the proportion of grass in the diet and grazing days.

Cullinan said today he wanted to "acknowledge the fact that Bord Bia has listened to reason on this matter and adopted a flexible approach in order that to maximise the proportion of beef that will qualify as grass fed.”

Qualifying animals must be from farms that are members of the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS).

However, the first 9 months of an animal’s life may be spent on non-QA farms. This means that all animals including young bulls will be deemed as grass fed for this period regardless of whether they were on QA or non-QA farm(s).

The grass fed standard is built on two key criteria:

• A minimum of 90% of an animal’s diet during their lifetime on a fresh weight basis must be grass or grass based forages

• The annual average days of grass stands at 220 days with an allowance of up to 40 days where soil type or weather may prevent longer grazing seasons.

This evidence points to a real opportunity to use our existing grass fed strengths to create a nationally verified standard and deliver upon a clearly identified consumer desire for ethical, premium, natural and healthy beef.

It comes after Bord Bia confirmed to the Farming Independent that it cannot insist on the use of Irish grain in its proposed grass-fed beef standard, and does not have a mechanism to exclude genetically modified (GM) feedstuffs from the diets of qualifying animals.

Responding to queries from the Farming Independent, Bord Bia said the "grass-fed standard doesn't examine the other feeds consumed by the animal other than to quantify them".

"The Bord Bia standards for our dairy, beef and lamb schemes contain specific criteria relating to the sourcing, handling and management of animal feed to ensure the safety and hygiene of the feed. Bord Bia does not impose requirements on the origin of this feed," a spokesperson said.

The grass fed label will be incorporated into Bord Bia’s promotional activities for Irish beef from the autumn onwards with the aim of differentiating Irish beef from our competitors and in doing so help maximise the returns from the marketplace to the benefit of Irish beef farmers, according to Bord Bia.

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