Beef farmers are fighting for better prices from powerful processors and, despite a €100m Government subsidy, have demanded more “money on the table from the minister”.
Beef producers are in a very difficult position, but then so are many other small, family-run businesses, most of which can only dream of a no-strings-attached rescue package. This anomaly, this unequal treatment, has been a feature of Irish life for decades, even though it seems increasingly unsustainable on social or environmental grounds.
Yet there seems an even greater threat to conventional farming. Consumers’ tastes are changing quickly: More people are eating less meat and are cutting back on dairy products, too. That trend has accelerated, with the announcement that KFC is to mix Colonel Sanders’ “finger lickin’ good” chicken with nuggets made from plants, rather than chicken.
The fast-food chain has 23,000 outlets around the world, but in America it will trial a product called Beyond Fried Chicken, produced in conjunction with meat substitute company Beyond Meat.
Those inclined to dismiss this change as a fad should follow the money. Beyond Meat’s shares have soared six-fold since a May flotation. They opened at $25, but are more than $150 today, valuing the company at close to $9bn (€8.1bn). They rose a further 4% when the KFC trial was announced.