DEAR SIR: Bord Bia would like to respond to comments made across several pages in the 4 December issue, which claimed that Irish beef is a commodity product in British and European markets.
This is inaccurate and does not reflect Bord Bia’s evidence from the market.
Across the UK and Europe, Irish beef enjoys a growing portfolio of over 100 supermarket and food service operators committed to buying Irish beef.
In the UK, Irish beef is stocked by the top three retailers (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s) and is the only imported beef in mainstream UK retail. In the core standard ranges, Red Tractor Beef and Quality Assured Irish beef are sold at the same price.
Premium ranges are the preserve of British beef only.
In food service, Quality Assured Irish beef is the only imported beef used by the leading quick service restaurant chains. It also enjoys a strong position with many other food service operators and distributors, where quality assurance is a pre-requisite.
In Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, Irish beef is now, by and large, sold at a premium to local product in retailers.
Customers recognise the distinct appearance and eating quality attributes of prime Irish steer and heifer beef (compared with domestic young bull beef), and consider our grass-based production system a significant point of difference.
When comparing Irish beef prices to European or Brazilian cattle prices, it is more robust to examine trends rather than compare market price data at a particular moment in time. For the year to date, Irish R3 steer prices are running 16c/kg ahead of average EU male cattle prices.
Average Irish R3 steer prices are 51c/kg ahead of Polish R3 young bulls for the year to date.
Although there have been unprecedented high prices paid there in the last month or so, the average price paid for R3 young bulls in Poland remains at €3.55/kg so far this year.
Similarly, Irish R3 steer prices are running €1.17/kg or 40% ahead of Brazilian steer prices as reported by the European Commission (up to 18 November 2021).
Finally, Irish steer prices have reached or exceeded the EU average in eight of the years since 2010. It is worth remembering that between 2000 and 2009, Irish prices only reached the EU average in one of those years (2008).
While challenges remain, Irish beef has established an enhanced market position over the last decade. Utilising the Grass Fed Standard, and hopefully in time, PGI status, the sector will look to build further upon this platform.