Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, has launched a Grass Fed Standard for Beef, the world’s first on a national scale, that allows it to track and verify the percentage of grass consumed in the diet of Irish beef herds.
Irish processors will now be able to provide verifiable proof, in the form of a Grass Fed Standard, to support a grass fed claim that beef from Ireland comes from grass fed cows.
Grass fed has always been Ireland’s production system with lush green fields, clean air and plentiful rain creating the perfect environment for beef farming, which converts grass into nutrient-rich, premium quality products.
Half of consumers globally said that “grass fed” would influence their choice of beef as they believe that grass fed cattle lead more ‘natural’ lives outdoors and are more likely to be treated ethically. 64% said they would pay more for it. Research also points to a strong demand among buyers in overseas markets and processors who are increasingly turning to grass fed as a means of competitive differentiation.
Padraig Brennan, Bord Bia’s Meat, Food and Beverage Director, said: “Almost half of consumers globally associate Ireland with grass fed, so we have developed this standard in direct response to the growing international consumer and customer demand for premium, healthy and naturally produced products. The Grass Fed Standard, and its associated logo, will allow customers using qualifying Irish beef to differentiate their product to consumers who are increasingly seeking greater clarity on the provenance of food, as well as the desire to purchase naturally tasty beef from sustainable, grass fed farming systems.”
The Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard is a processor scheme which sets out the grass fed rules that must be adhered to for individual farms so that products can be classified as grass fed. For herds to qualify for the Grass Fed Standard, grass must constitute at least 90% of feed intake throughout each animal’s lifetime, on a fresh weight basis. This figure is achieved through the use of a scientific Grass Fed Model which assesses the grass fed status of beef cattle in conformance with the Grass Fed Standard.
The Grass Fed model will use data collected during the ISO-accredited Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) on-farm audits to determine the grass fed status of each participating herd.
Padraig Brennan added: “The Grass Fed standard is a strict yet transparent verification process, based on a robust, nationally verified Assurance Scheme which now enables us to verify credentials that can set Ireland apart from all competitors in the grass fed sphere.”
Irish beef production has many strengths, including widespread participation in the accredited Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS), a suckler herd of nearly 1 million, clean health status, high-performance genetics, family-run farms and a predominately grass-based system.
The Grass Fed Standard has been recognised by Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) and Irish processors are working to put in place the systems to have beef products verified this year and into 2021.