5 MARCH 2019
ICSA suckler chairman John Halley has said that it is imperative that any initiative to get EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for beef should be focused on developing a niche for animal welfare friendly, less intensive suckler beef systems. “Suckler farming is the image used to promote Irish beef but suckler farmers are not getting the return for their system of farming,” he said.
Mr Halley was speaking following a stakeholder meeting on the subject of attaining PGI status for Irish beef, held in Agriculture House last week.
“PGI status should be used as a mechanism to sell suckler beef as a premium product to discerning consumers. There are many reasons why suckler beef should be seen as premium product, including high animal welfare standards, high natural health status and the fact that much of the suckler production is intrinsically linked with maintaining high amenity landscapes in regions where tourism is vital. Any strategy to get PGI status for the entire kill, including dairy beef, risks making the same mistake as the previous attempt in 2009, which was rejected by the EU Commission.”
“If we go for one generic PGI to cover everything, suckler farmers will feel let down that dairy farming interests have triumphed again when in fact, this should be used as a device to improve returns from suckler systems.”
“ICSA believes that if there is any hope, it must be the development of a suckler beef brand, based on natural, extensive, pasture-based farming. We cannot have PGI status for all beef, it just won’t fool consumers. Ideally, this should be done in conjunction with a really beneficial agri-environment scheme that is more like REPS and less like GLAS in terms of delivering significant payment levels to farmers engaged in suckler beef production.”
“There will have to be buy-in from the meat industry to market this as a high value niche product. This will not work if we have artificial incentives to encourage farmers to keep more suckler cows. Instead we need to focus on paying better direct payments to more extensive systems of farming because we have seen time and time again that scarcity is far better than traceability or sustainability for farmers.”