Farm Ireland

Saturday 25 November 2017

ICSA questions the 380kg factory bull beef limit

ICMSA's Edmond Phelan
ICMSA's Edmond Phelan
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The ICSA accused factories of double standards on the proposed 380kg weight spec limits to be imposed for bulls.

The farmer body claimed that Asda, a key customer for Irish beef in Britain, had indicated in the British press that it was happy to take bulls up to 450kg from British farmers.

The ICSA claimed the comments made by Pearce Hughes, Asda agriculture manager and reported in the Farmers Weekly, confirmed that the supermarket chain accepted bulls over the 380kg limit being proposed by the Irish factories.

Mr Hughes said farmers breeding pure-bred Stabiliser cattle would have a ready outlet for their stock up to 450kgs.

"We accept finished bulls up to 16 months old with a carcass weight of up to 450kg, so there is a market ready and waiting for all progeny (of Stabiliser cattle)," Mr Hughes told the Farmers Weekly. "Those farmers not wanting to finish the cattle themselves have the option to send them to the Asda/ABP BeefLink progeny testing/finishing unit at Adam Quinney's Worcestershire farm," he added.

ICSA beef committee chairman Edmond Phelan said Mr Hughes remarks showed that beef industry efforts to introduce a 380kg weight limit for bulls had nothing to do with the demands of retailers but was a device to impose further price cuts on farmers.


"The British retailer Asda has openly advised British farmers that it is a customer for young bulls up to 450kg. How can Irish beef processors then be believed when they say that 380kg is a market requirement," Mr Phelan asked.

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"This will add to farmer suspicions that the weight limits are simply a device to cut prices paid for significant numbers of bulls," Mr Phelan said.

"Throughout the spring, ICSA has been inundated with calls from members who have lost 15c or more for young bulls over 420kg, even though some of these bulls have graded U3 or better. This amounts to a loss of €60 upwards on prime cattle that meet all the other grade requirements, and usually come from quality assured farms," he added.

He said warnings from the meat industry that the 420kg weight limit was to be reduced to 380kg would result in further cuts to farmers.

Mr Phelan accused the meat industry of exaggerating the requirements of British retailers for their own ends and he called for greater "oversight" of the industry.

"Unilateral changes to spec, without consultation or lead-in time cannot be permitted. This is why ICSA has been correct to call for a regulator with real power of investigation, particularly when we see that the meat processors cannot be trusted on what the retailers really need," Mr Phelan said.

However, a spokesman for Meat Industry Ireland (MII) rejected the ICSA's claims. He said the Asda specs referred to in the Farmers Weekly article related to a very specific scheme that was limited to a specific group of producers in the Asda Beeflink programme and to a specific breed also.

"It is for under-16 month bulls and UK only. The limited nature of this specific scheme therefore does not affect overall prevailing market requirements and specifications," the MII spokesman insisted.

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