Northern Ireland’s beef farmers are calling on consumers throughout the Province to back their quest to persuade retailers not to skimp on product information, especially on country of origin, put on retail packs.
The move follows last week’s revelation that 29.1 per cent of the content of a beef burger, manufactured by a subsidiary of the Republic of Ireland’s biggest beef processor, was horsemeat.
It is also fuelled by longstanding anger that beef cattle produced on Northern Ireland farms are habitually discounted in value by ten per cent compared with exactly the same cattle types produced on the mainland – most likely because of post-farm confusion about whether Northern Ireland stock, and its beef, carries British or Irish identity.
“No one works harder than the Northern Ireland beef farmer to make sure that the cattle they rear are produced to the highest possible standards and there is resentment in our ranks that these strenuous efforts are not properly rewarded,” explained the National Beef Association’s Northern Ireland chairman, Oisin Murnion.
“Here in Northern Ireland we have in APHIS the most robust, computer based, cattle tracing system in Europe. It allows processors and retailers to guarantee that the cattle they have purchased were born, reared, and processed in the Province and enables anyone who is interested to check back and prove that as fact.”
“On top of this our cattle, and their beef, is backed by the toughest of farm assurance demands which cover, among many other things, their welfare, their feeding, and their veterinary treatment. There can be no doubt that NI’s Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (FQAS), which also qualifies our beef for the well known Red Tractor logo, is recognised throughout the EU as top ranking proof of product provenance and integrity.”
“So imagine our dismay when we learn not just that horsemeat has been used to contaminate beef burgers produced in the ROI but that there is a determined, long running, attempt to blur the origin of cattle produced in Northern Ireland - which if it succeeds will further reduce the value of our stock compared with beef animals farmed on the mainland.”