The second half of the Bord Bia meat seminar heard that the EU retail market for beef last year was more in line with 2019 than the exceptional performance of the COVID-dominated 2020.
This was based on 71,995 interviews conducted across the six beef export markets – the UK, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands plus the Irish market.
Consumers are less likely to choose beef, according to the survey, because of price and better promotions on alternative proteins.
Bord Bia also reported that the survey revealed a negative perception of beef across all markets, being considered bad for health, the environment and being an old-fashioned product.
This was countered by a significant number believing it to be a healthy protein and there was also a strong view in favour of sustainable and ethically reared beef.
In an era of nationalisation of beef preference in the UK and many EU countries, there was a particularly positive report on the preference for Irish beef in Sweden and the Netherlands. In Sweden, 44% of consumers surveyed expressed a preference for Irish beef compared with 23% for the domestic Swedish product.
In the Netherlands, 38% of people surveyed preferred Irish beef compared with just 24% preferring the domestic product. Interestingly, the main competitor for Irish beef in Netherlands was Uruguay.
On lamb, the most favourable reviews were from Belgium and Germany where there was a 46% and 38% awareness respectively and up to 21% of people in Belgium and 15% in Germany were willing to pay a little more for Irish lamb.
Strong in the UK
The UK remains Ireland’s main beef export market and is the UK’s main supplier of imported beef, now accounting for 80% annually. The seminar heard from Bord Bia’s Emmet Doyle on how Irish beef was interchangeable with British in the top three supermarkets - Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda.
What is interesting from an Irish farmer’s viewpoint is that Irish and British beef is selling on these shelves at the exact same price point despite the huge difference in what farmers receive in Ireland compared with the UK.
What is also encouraging is that UK consumers surveyed by Bord Bia hold Irish beef in the same regard as British.
The cloud on the horizon for Irish exports to Britain is the trade deals the UK has made with Australia and New Zealand.
Ireland’s established place in the market and accessibility will be a defence but the seminar also heard how the cost to UK farmers has been put at £94m (€113.2) annually so it is inevitable that there will also be a cost to Irish exporters.