With EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for Irish grass-fed beef likely to be assigned in the coming weeks, Hannah Woods discusses the tangible benefits to farmers and industry from such schemes, along with potential issues arising from the proposed inclusion criteria of the PGI.
With the final national opposition procedure submitted to the European Commission, we now look to the promise of an EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for Irish grass-fed beef in the coming weeks. This scheme would be beneficial to Irish beef producers both large and small, as it protects the names of specific agricultural products which would have a value-added characteristic linked to their place of origin.
Geographical Indicators already exist for Irish produce in Europe, such as Connemara Hill lamb and the Waterford Blaa. Evidence suggests that there is a market for grass-fed Irish beef, too.
Geographical Indicators already exist for Irish produce in Europe, such as Connemara Hill lamb and the Waterford Blaa. Evidence suggests that there is a market for grass-fed Irish beef, too. Research carried out in 2018 by Bord Bia found that 63% of consumers are willing to pay a price premium for grass fed produce. The demand for dairy produce sourced from grass-fed cattle is also high, with “88% of global consumers saying it is the best in the world” according to the National Dairy Council. However, this introduced PGI for grass fed beef could be the final stretch to expand the global Irish grass-fed beef market.
This PGI scheme could provide a positive economic opportunity for producers and for rural areas. Yet, whether the premium price for Irish beef paid by consumers ends up in beef farmers pockets will no doubt determine the success or failure of the deal. Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack says the Irish beef sector has the opportunity to get PGI status on over 70% of the beef currently produced in Ireland. The deal does not, however, include bulls, dairy cows and animals with over a two-hour travel journey to the place of slaughter.
Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan said Bord Bia are twisting their words when it comes to the PGI document. This has stemmed from Bord Bia’s failure to discuss the document with farmers before it was published. Cullinan urges farmers to “read the full document rather than the spin from Bord Bia”. Along with this, Bord Bias statement suggests that all animals including young bulls would be eligible for the grass fed ‘standard’ but they were not eligible for the grass fed ‘PGI’ which was previously thought to be on the cards for Irish beef farmers, from past Bord Bia advertising which promoted a finishing bull herd on the overseas campaign for Irish beef.
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Suckler Committee Chairman Ger O’Brien says that Irish suckler beef is a niche product and with this there should be a PGI status specifically for sucklers. “Irish suckler beef is a premium product that demands a premium price and in order to achieve a price we need a PGI status” says O’Brien. Previous ICSA chairman John Halley agreed and said “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 a device to improve returns for suckler systems”. The PGI scheme is a value-added characteristic linked to their place of origin, with which suckler beef farming is intrinsically associated with maintaining high amenity landscapes where tourism is vital. Along with this, suckler beef has high animal welfare standards and a high natural health status. Suckler farmers already meet PGI standards whereas other beef farmers will have to increase measures in order to avail of the PGI status.
IFA livestock chairman Brendan Golden has urged Bord Bia and the Department of the risk they pose to beef farmers by exploiting the grass-fed image. Compliance by beef farmers with new measures seen over the last few months has only impacted negatively in terms of a higher beef price. “We need to get this right and farmers need to be centrally involved” says Golden. Now is the prime opportunity for beef farmers to get their foot in the door on the PGI status.
PGI status has the potential to build some resilience against market volatility by positioning products in a high-quality category
PGI status has the potential to build some resilience against market volatility by positioning products in a high-quality category. This could evidently give assurance to farmers with the consistency of a PGI status. With that said, a narrower range of production would have to be taken in relation to Irish beef. However, then a differentiation would occur between Irish grass-fed beef and Irish grass fed PGI status beef in the marketplace. One which beef farmers and consumers alike may not be too pleased about.