Scientists are working on ways to harness extra value out of the 'fifth quarter' in the hope of adding significant value to beef animals slaughtered here.
With over half every carcass consigned to low value offal products, the ReValue Protein research project aims to turn the fifth quarter into high demand foods with health-enhancing benefits.
The industry average is for 54pc of the animal carcass being categorised as the fifth quarter, earning low or even negative returns for beef processors.
The research team will headed by Jim O'Callaghan, Teagasc Walsh Fellowship student, Meave Henchion from Teagasc's Rural Economy Section and UCC's Mary McCarthy.
Most of the 263kg/head of beef animal offal is currently sent for rendering as pet food or disposed of as waste.
"The fifth quarter has parts that are high in protein peptides and enzymes which, if extracted, could be used in a variety of food products that promote health and potentially reduce the incidence of certain diseases," said Ms Henchion.
"Obviously the red offal, including blood, is high in things like iron.
"But we also believe that white offal such as the lung has potential for much more targeted use."
There is a huge range in the value that different meat plants place on, and achieve for, the fifth quarter.
Some plants are losing market opportunities because body parts are not prevented from hitting the factory floor, which immediately prevents them from entering the food chain.
The researchers believe that if processing plants were more aware of the market opportunities that they could set up their lines better to capture the full value of the offal.
"We also want to find out if people's attitudes softens if offal is processed in certain ways.
"There are already markets for ears and testicles – our job is to broaden that outlet," said Ms Henchion, before adding that there were also non-food opportunities for some of the extracts from offal.