Press Release - Consumers can make case for accurate beef product labelling
22nd January 2013
Region: Northern Ireland
Consumers can make case for accurate beef product labelling
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.”
The NBA is certain that consumers across Northern Ireland can help to ensure that the beef they buy continues to be of the highest calibre by insisting that retailers promise to take the following steps.
# Make sure that the Red Tractor and FQAS logos, which guarantee NI origin, provenance, and integrity, are prominently positioned on the label.
# Make sure that the country of origin on the pack is clearly written and not abbreviated within the small print into IRL or UK.
# Make sure that retail beef packs containing beef from either the ROI or the UK are not mixed, or co-mingled, on the same supermarket shelf. (This is becoming more common because some retailers want to make British beef and Irish beef appear indistinguishable.)
# Join with the NBA in persuading retailers that beef factories in Northern Ireland should not be processing cattle from the ROI and NI on the same premises.
# Persuade retailers that beef taken from cattle produced in either the ROI and the UK should not be described as British but be labelled “Beef from the British Isles” instead.
“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 Mr 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.”
“The horsemeat scandal which erupted in the ROI last week has re-focused attention on the need for full accuracy in product labelling.
“We are therefore urging every supermarket chain, small, medium or large, to make every effort to ensure that country of origin in particular is not compromised and to accept that if they have labelled the beef in a pack as British then only beef that is from the UK can be in the pack – and our hope is that consumers will be backing our efforts on this too,” Mr Murnion added.”
For more information contact:
Oisin Murnion, NBA Northern Ireland chairman. Tel 02841 765082