Blue-chip beef for the future?
PRIME beef must be divorced from inferior products if the industry is to prosper, but Agenda 2000 proposals need to be altered to turn potential industry regeneration into reality.
That was the message from Richard Moore, of Northern Ireland-based Milltown and Livestock Meat Co.
"It is not good enough to discuss beef as a homogenous product," he said. There was great potential for "blue chip" beef as produced by big exporters like Australia and the USA.
"We continue to forecast declining consumption knowing our customers are offered little choice. We must not ignore their wishes, they could well be the major factor in avoiding further surpluses."
The villains of the piece were dairy and bull beef, he claimed. "Bull beef is for trading, steer beef is for eating." Unfortunately, Agenda 2000 proposals favoured the poorer quality products.
Lower cereal prices would encourage intensive beef production, mostly bull beef, and reduce feed costs for pigs and poultry. "And reintroducting aid on maize silage means you will winter-fatten cattle for almost nothing."
Dairy proposals for a 15% cut in milk price partly offset by new headage payments of £80 a cow was a "steady as you go policy" which would continue to affect meat quality.
Beef farmers had to face a 30% price cut. Increased headage premiums would help, bull beef qualified for a higher level.
"At a time when consumer concerns about animal welfare and diets are clearly expressed as favouring extensive production, we are moving in the wrong direction," said Mr Moore.