An agreement has been reached on the criteria that cattle will need to meet to be labelled as Irish grass-fed beef.

Government and industry representatives from both sides of the Irish border were involved in negotiations about the new Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

A key issue for the NI officials was the requirement for cattle to spend at least 220 days at grass each year, with an extra 40-day housing period allowed for in “exceptional circumstances”.

The Irish Farmers Journal understands that this requirement has not been dropped from the final criteria, although the wording has been changed to “mitigating circumstances”.

The flexibility for 40 days extra housing, which takes the minimum grazing season to 180 days, is to allow for variations in weather, soil conditions and other environmental factors across the island.

An initial application for PGI status for grass-fed beef was submitted to the European Commission in November 2020. It was made by authorities in the Republic of Ireland and would only have applied to cattle from that part of the island.

This was opposed by government and industry representatives from NI and official talks on an agreed application to cover the entire island began in April 2022.

This process concluded on Monday evening and the application is now being re-submitted, with approval expected by late 2022 or early 2023.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said he was hopeful that farmers across the island will benefit from their beef being sold in European markets under the new grass-fed PGI label.

“I strongly support the inclusion of Northern Ireland’s grass-fed beef being included in this application,” he said.


As part of a verification process for the new grass-fed beef status, it is expected that extra questions will be added to the inspection process for the NI beef and lamb farm quality assurance scheme.

This is likely to include questions around turnout and housing dates, as well as records of concentrates and forages offered to cattle. This is because the PGI status requires 90% of feed intake to come from grazed grass, or else silage during the winter.

Cattle will also need to meet certain specification requirements at slaughter. The original PGI application stated that steers and heifers need to be under 36 months, O- conformation and above, and fat class 2+ to 4+.

Beef cows up to 120 months of age will also be eligible, with the specification requiring conformation of O+ or higher and fat class 2+ to 5=.