Factories must pay more for top grades, insists expert

Former beef specialist Michael Drennan
Former beef specialist Michael Drennan
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Irish beef processors do not adequately reward meat yield in their cattle pricing structure, according to the former Teagasc specialist who carried out much of the research work on which the beef grid is based.

Michael Drennan said the importance of lean meat yield is not fairly reflected in beef carcass prices, and he suggested that the price differentials between grades needed to increase significantly.

"The price paid for carcasses of good conformation (high meat yield) from the suckler herd tend to be inadequate relative to carcasses with lower meat yield," he claimed.

"It is long accepted by farmers that composition is taken into account in pricing products such as milk, protein and fat content, and grain, moisture content."

However, Mr Drennan said the same principle was not applied to the pricing of cattle.

"It is worth pointing out that the bone content of a U3 steer carcass would average only 16.8pc, while an O3 would be 21.2pc. The O3 would also have more fat," he explained.

"As a result, the lean meat content of the steer carcasses in the Grange study were 66kg/100kg for O3s and 73kg/100kg for U3s.

"Based on these studies the price difference between U3s and O3s should be about 45c/kg, whereas in the last year the figure in Ireland was 29c/kg."

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The corresponding figures for the UK, France and Italy were 33c/kg, 82c/kg and 127c/kg respectively.

While the UK differential was below Ireland's, Mr Drennan pointed out that the average UK price for U3 animals was 9c/kg higher than the Irish price.

He also noted that prices for poor-quality P3 cows in Ireland were 35c/kg higher than the average in the UK, France, Italy and Germany.

In recent weeks suggestions of changes to the beef grid have provoked strong differences between the farm organisations.

The IFA has called for a premium to be paid for stock from the suckler herd.

However, the ICMSA is opposed to the idea.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack claimed that any plan which gave additional bonuses to a smaller number of animals, while penalising the majority of stock, will not be accepted by farmers.

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