No UK retailers demand all the requirements beef cattle must meet - ICOS

'Citing an animal as being inferior because it simply moves to or from another farm is wrong'

Beef farmers at Baltinglass Livestock Mart, Co Wicklow. Photo: Kevin Byrne
Beef farmers at Baltinglass Livestock Mart, Co Wicklow. Photo: Kevin Byrne
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

No retailer in the UK requires cattle from Irish beef farmers to adhere to all of the criteria it is subject, ICOS has said.  

Figures from ICOS show that no UK retailer requires Irish cattle to adhere to a 70-day residency rule, or more than four farm residencies combination as a requirement.

It comes as an overhaul of the beef grid is to be looked at over the coming days and weeks as demanded by the Beef Plan Movement during its recent two week protest.

Among calls for the grid overhaul, ICOS has questioned why Irish meat factories insist it’s a ‘customer requirement’, and why is it persistently used as part of the current QPS bonus scheme when no such requirement exists?

"It became clear that no UK retailer has a 70 days residency or more than 4 farm residencies combination as a requirement. Why then do our meat factories insist it’s a ‘customer requirement’, and why is it persistently used as part of the current QPS bonus scheme when no such requirement exists?"

The Quality Payment System is now a Decade old, it’s high time to review it, according to ICOS, which says the beef industry must delete or modify parts of the scheme that are either not working as intended or, that don’t have any basis in terms of real market demand.

"No citation or scientific basis was ever provided for the introduction of penalties on farmers’ cattle if an animal was moved more than four times or moved within the last 70 days.  But these penalising measures were included by the processors as quality parameters.

"It’s only right that quality suckler production is rewarded for the investment in breeding and feeding. P grade dairy bred animals are arguably a by-product of the dairy industry and they are not the dairy farmer’s primary revenue source.

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"However, regardless of the necessary grading, citing an animal as being inferior because it simply moves to or from another farm is wrong."

Currently, the Irish meat factories enforce measures through the QPS where cattle that have moved farms in the last 70 days before slaughter are penalised and don’t qualify for the QPS bonus. The QPS is also withheld if cattle have had more than four movements from farm to farm prior to slaughter, even if all farms are quality assured.

ICOS goes on to say that anecdotally, the marts bodies were informed that the two major discounters, ALDI and LIDL have no restrictions on their purchasing criteria. They did say however that they want all beef to be farm assured beef, either through via Bord Bia’s scheme in Ireland or via the Red Tractor Scheme in the UK.

It also said that there were mixed messages from retailers. "McDonalds, for example, clearly stated in the Beef Forum, and also clarified by email to ICOS, that they have no additional restrictions on their beef purchasing policies over and above the Bord Bia quality assurance scheme.

"However, their preferred processing plant, OSI in England will not process any beef from a carcase that has moved more than four times or changed farms within the last 60 days."

It goes on to say that such practices stop free trade in animals even though the livestock are compliant with the relevant regulations in Ireland and the UK.

"This has subverted fair competition for livestock and has distorted trade and pricing in Ireland and the UK. While this is to the detriment of cattle prices,  it is to the considerable benefit of Irish meat processors and UK multiple retailers."

ICOS also said that through their ‘conditions’, the factories also discriminate against livestock marts where they have effectively removed the trade in factory fit animals from the marts.  

"It is common practice in marts, while adhering fully to all animal transfer and traceability regulations, for an animal to be sold from farm to farm as it moves through fattening and onto slaughter. The so called ‘quality standards’ are forcing farmers to forego selling through the marts system which has undermined free trade and proper price transparency."

Online Editors


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