A voluntary beef label has been approved in Northern Ireland for cattle born in the Republic of Ireland, raised in the Republic of Ireland and/or Northern Ireland, and slaughtered in Northern Ireland.
“This label would facilitate the sale of beef from animals born in the South and slaughtered in the North, while ensuring that the “Origin Ireland” label, which serves the Irish beef and other sectors so well, is protected in domestic and EU markets,” said Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney in the Dail last week.
“At this stage the voluntary label has been approved by the authorities in Northern Ireland but, of course, the question of using such a label is now a commercial matter between processors and retailers in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the UK.”
However, he revealed that the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) advised him that its members have considered the mixed label issue in some detail, and have concluded that, for the moment, they are not prepared to change their labelling policies.
Mr Coveney was responding to a question from Brendan Smith, TD, Fianna Fail.
He explained there is a commercial preference at UK retail level, reflecting consumer preference there, for a simple origin labelling process bearing the name of a single EU member state only.
This has facilitated the sale in major UK retail outlets of large quantities of beef from cattle born, reared and slaughtered in Ireland.
“However, it adversely affects the market for beef from cattle of ‘mixed origin’ such as those traditionally exported to Northern Ireland for fattening and slaughter.”
“I have been pro-active in supporting this traditional trade and have met on a number of occasions with my counterpart in Northern Ireland, Minister Michelle O’Neill, MLA. We have also written jointly to the three UK retailers which currently stock Irish beef, Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys, asking them to consider a new mixed label for animals born reared or slaughtered in both jurisdictions on the island.”
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