Thousands of organic cattle being processed by conventional system
The major challenge for the organic beef industry is producing a year-round supply to satisfy contracts with supermarket chains, according to one processor.
Denis Brennan, from Bunclody-based Slaney Meats which processes a substantial volume of organic cattle, estimates that a third of the organic beef stock end up in the conventional beef finishing system.
"For three-quarters of its life an animal may have been raised organically, then for the last couple of months it is on a conventional farm and sold out," said the Slaney Meats' procurement manager on a farm walk on Dominic Leonard's holding near Durrow, Co Laois.
In a single year, he pointed out 13,000 calves were registered as organic but up to 3,000 cattle were not entering the supply chain.
He singled out the consistency of organic supply as the largest problem, with poor numbers in January, February, March and April.
"It is stopping future growth because of supermarkets not wanting to accept seasonality," he said. "If we as a factory, or we as a country say we can't guarantee it 52-weeks a year, then they'll walk away."
However, there was plenty to be positive about, as customers identified still organic as the "king" when it comes to traceability and animal welfare, said Mr Brennan.