N.Ireland - Beef labelling

03 Feb 2013

Beef farmers in Northern Ireland are persuading retailers not to skip product information on retail package labels.

The move follows revelations that up to 29% of beefburger content manufactured in Ireland was horsemeat.

"If a high proportion of horsemeat can find its way into a beef burger who is to say what else might happen on packing lines used by companies that process cattle from more than one country and sell a range of products containing a wide variety of cuts taken from different parts of the carcass" said Hamish McBean, National Beef Association national chairman.

There is also longstanding anger that beef cattle produced on Northern Irish farms are discounted in value compared with British mainland. 

That beef association said this was 'most likely because of post-farm confusion about whether Northern Ireland stock, and its beef, carries British or Irish identity.'

"There is resentment in our ranks that these strenuous efforts are not properly rewarded" said Oisin Murnion, National Beef Association Northern Ireland chairman.

"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."

"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."

Beef farmers have urged consumers to look for the Red Tractor logos which guarantee origin and provenance.

"We are concerned about accuracy of country of origin because if a high proportion of horsemeat can find its way into a beef burger who is to say what might happen on packing lines used by companies that process cattle from both NI and the ROI," said Murnion.

"Our concern about the Red Tractor logo and FQAS follows an announcement by Sainsbury’s, which also sells beef from the ROI, that the Red Tractor is to be taken off its labels."

Years of unchecked indiscriminate breeding have resulted in thousands of horses with little or no value and a shortage of responsible and knowledgeable owners willing to care for them. 

Frequently these are the animals that end up at the abattoir and the BHS believes that tackling overpopulation should be our focus rather than debating the issue of consuming horsemeat.

The contaminated products had been stocked by a number of supermarket chains including Tesco.

The retailer said it was working "to ensure it does not happen again".

The British Horse Society said "once an animal has died there is nothing more that can be done for them." 

"Furthermore, there is the issue of what to do with a horse's carcass given their size and the fact that it is, in most circumstances, both illegal and impractical to bury them. Equine cremation services do exist but for many people are prohibitively expensive, leaving sending their horse for meat as the only practical option."


Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.


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