Some very welcome news for the beef sector as €4million EU funding announced to help brand Irish suckler beef abroad.
Four premium markets are now being tested for a branded Irish suckler beef product with research results expected in four to six weeks.
Irish suckler beef could be branded and promoted separately in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium, starting in 2019, if market research suggests it could be viable.
In December, Bord Bord hired an Irish research company to concept test the idea in the four target, premium markets. This research is ongoing and should conclude in the next four to six weeks. When Bord Bia must then make the decision as to whether it is a commercial runner.
A number of factors have led Bord Bia to investigate if now could be the time to brand and promote Irish suckler beef. Consumers are more interested today in where the meat they buy comes from. EU funding is available to help launch and promote beef brands. The Irish suckler sector is facing challenging times and needs assistance.
More and more people are becoming interested in the story of where there food comes from and suckler systems have a very positive story to tell. It has unique selling points, produced by family farms that have heritage and tradition.
There’s a good environmental story to tell with suckler beef generally produced in moderate stocking rate systems with many of these farms participating in EU environmental schemes. Carbon sequestration in the west of Ireland is an important story that can be capitalised on.
There are welfare positives. A calf staying with the cow for eight to 10 months is something that many consumers would value. There are advantages for marketing to the retailer or restaurant dedicated beef animals with quality beef, better cuts, higher yield, etc.
Irish farmers know all about suckler beef production from their childhoods – but the average urban consumer has little if any awareness of what it means. Therefore, identifying, explaining and promoting Irish suckler beef on premium export markets would require a big up-front investment – hard cash.
Up to €4million of EU funding would be available to help. Bord Bia will be making an application and must convince the EU the idea is viable. The proposition of Irish suckler beef will be put to consumer panels in a number of export markets to find out how much people would understand the concept of suckler beef and if the specific nature of suckler beef production could sway a decision when purchasing.
Initial discussions with processors on the idea has been positive and if it’s viable, they will be central in developing niche products that can go into these channels. If the idea looks to be viable, a campaign will initially be targeted at high-end food service, top chefs and quality restaurants. There is an opening already in Switzerland and Germany where their own suckler beef is marketed at a premium price.
The suckler herd is very important in distinguishing Ireland with France, Spain and Ireland being the only countries with major suckler herds. Countries without a suckler herd have to work harder to market their beef.