Where’s the beef? Supermac's boss demands fairer deal for farmers

Supermac’s boss Pat McDonagh. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Supermac’s boss Pat McDonagh. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Fast food giant Supermac’s has warned its Irish meat suppliers not to look for price increases unless they agree to pass the benefits back to farmers.

Supermac’s owner Pat McDonagh said meat costs have increased “year on year” but the “price being paid to the farmer is decreasing”.

Any upcoming price increase that Supermac’s was being asked to pay for beef needed to be given directly to the farmer, he said.

“Supermac’s will do its duty in supporting our farmers and we would ask that the factories do the same by passing the benefit of the increase on to farmers,” Mr McDonagh told the Farming Independent.

“Farmers that I speak to have seldom been in such a delicate situation and we need to be very careful that we don’t put Irish farm families under the kind of pressure that they can’t recover from.”

Over the last six weeks the beef factories have cut base quotes for cattle by 20c/kg to 375c/kg. This equates to €70/hd on a 350kg carcass.

The farm organisations have accused processors of profiteering on farmers’ distress through the recent fodder crisis by slashing beef prices as livestock owners were forced to offload stock, even though meat prices have held in the supermarkets and in other outlets.

Mr McDonagh pointed out that his business will spend over €35 million on Irish beef, chicken and other fresh produce across its 100 outlets this year. He described this spend as “a very strong endorsement of the quality of produce on Irish farms”.

“We have always looked to local suppliers wherever possible, be that for farm produce or construction materials.”

He maintained that farmers were facing massive weather, prices and trading challenges at the moment.

“I believe that Irish farmers have seldom been under so much pressure. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the fodder crisis, prices being paid for product and a lack of cash flow are some of the biggest threats our farming communities have faced in several years,” Mr McDonagh said.

Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) rejected Mr McDonagh’s claims, saying: “The year-to-date price paid to beef farmers remains higher than last year. While we recognise that beef prices have weakened over the last two months due to deteriorating market conditions, the current price remains ahead of the same time last year. This is borne out in DAFM and Bord Bia reported prices.

“Manufacturing beef price is important to the overall beef price paid to farmers and manufacturing beef has performed better throughout the summer; however, this has been in the context of weaker performance from steak sales.

“The overall price returned to the farmer is based on the returns achievable in the market for the full set of cuts.

“It remains the case that we are exporting 90pc of the beef we produce, across a wide range of markets, against some stiff competition, but nevertheless the Irish beef processing industry has managed to return cattle prices throughout the year that are ahead of the EU average beef price.”

Online Editors