A report by Grant Thornton into the beef industry has been heavily criticised by the Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA).

The farming body has stated that the report faces a number of stumbling blocks including being, “hampered by an apparent lack of full co-operation from some players in the food chain”.

ICSA president, Dermot Kelleher, said it was further evidence that the introduction of a Food Ombudsman needs to be ramped up, with additional legislation to create an effective regulator for the beef chain.

He pointed out that other sectors and companies, citing airline as Ryanair as an example, operated are required to provide precise financial information available and that claims by Meat Industry Ireland that farmers received 80% of revenue generated from Irish beef sales wasn’t good enough without a full, transparent breakdown.

Hidden information

“We cannot allow the information to be hidden behind private company structures, nor buried in the complex business models of multi-billion retailers,” Kelleher said.

“Both the primary producer and the consumer should be entitled to know, at least at the aggregate level, where the margins are being made and whether food is priced fairly or not.”

Fifth quarter

The fifth quarter is also an area that needs to be addressed, with Kelleher pointing to the inconsistency in consumers' unwillingness to pay for prime beef cuts, yet being happy to spend large sums for pet foods made from offal.

“These are sold without any worry about the in-spec requirements and there is no real added value or marketing costs. ICSA believes that there must be the political will to get to the bottom of this and this is why robust legislation is required to get accurate answers,” Kelleher added.

He concluded by saying he was the third ICSA president to call for a Food Ombudsman and that such a function is needed to determine the truth behind who gets what from the food chain.