There is evidence of market demand across foodservice, retail and non-EU markets for animals under 30 months, the Beef Taskforce was recently told by Grant Thornton.
The professional services firm was asked to report on the market and customer requirements for Irish beef.
Their report said the Irish beef industry must first demonstrate that it can meet standard customer requirements, before establishing strong differentiators such as quality and sustainability in order to create a market preference.
Customer requirements and standards are constantly evolving with scientific developments and emerging consumer demands.
To incentivise cattle production that meets such standards, the Irish beef industry introduced in-spec bonus criteria, such as “under 30 months”.
This stemmed from BSE, but customers have cited other reasons for it, such as evidence that it has environmental benefits.
Grant Thornton also told the Beef Taskforce there is market demand for animals to come from quality assured farms, and the Bord Bia Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme is held in high regard by many customers, and is a key requirement of current trading.
“In relation to the requirement for a maximum of four farm residencies, there was some ambiguity amongst stakeholders as to the interpretation of this requirement,” according to Grant Thornton.
Some stakeholders identify a residency as a change in ownership and herd number, while others interpret it as a movement, for example to and from the mart.
The requirement can be linked to animal welfare and a desire to reduce movement-related stress in animals.
However, market demand for this requirement varies, and relates only to the number of residencies, and not to movements.
Some customers do not stipulate farm residencies requirements in their supply chain.
It is a preference for some, but not a requirement, because their supply base already provides animals with fewer than four residencies.
Market requirements also vary for a minimum period of residency on a quality assured farm, which can be linked to animal health and antibiotic residue withdrawal.
In-spec bonus criteria are less important outside the EU, according to Grant Thornton.
But under 30 months is a key requirement for some of these markets, and individual non-EU customers may insist on such criteria.
The full report is available on the gov.ie/en/collection/1a060-beef-taskforce/ webpage.