Galway-Roscommon TD Denis Naughten has said that Ireland needs a world recognised brand for its “certified grass-fed, extensively reared suckler beef”.
The Independent TD has called for the establishment of a strong brand for Irish beef that could command a good price on world markets such as Kerrygold has done in the dairy sector.
He added that with Brexit looming it was important to explore greater opportunities to export live cattle to Britain, as tariffs could be lower than on beef exported as meat.
This, he said, could be the difference between “survival and wipe-out” for suckler farmers in Ireland.
“There is an opportunity to market that in a global market and get a premium price for it,” Denis Naughten said.
He was speaking in advance of the disclosure that Bord Bia are now considering such a strategy and are looking to target continental markets for suckler reared beef.
Galway has seen the largest number of cattle farmers signing up for a new pilot programme supporting suckler farming.
The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) provides €40 per eligible calf to farmers.
Out of nearly 19,000 applications to the programme, over 2,000 were by farmers in Galway.
He added that Britain and Europe should consider the environmental advantage of importing from Ireland, rather than transporting cattle from the US or South America.
“It is important that we point out to British consumers that 70% of the deforestation of the Amazon – the lungs of our planet – is to provide land for cattle ranches,” the deputy claimed.
He went on to add that, “Some 11% of the greenhouse gas emissions involved in food production is directly linked to food transportation.”
“Surely, it makes far more sense to bring beef from Dublin to London, a distance of 464 km, than 11,000 km from Buenos Aires to London, a journey 24 times longer.”
Despite these claims, a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation recently labelled Ireland the most carbon intensive beef producer in the world.