Farm Week – 18/04/2024

Consumers benefit from backing our worldclass beef

An interesting survey from our friends at The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), on a survey of Northern Ireland eating habits, found that 90 percent of consumers in the country said they enjoyed eating red meat…. and presumably do so on a regular basis.

This is reassuring news for the farming industry, still our biggest and most successful food sector in international markets. The LMC statistic was drawn from a recent independent omnibus survey that it commissioned to examine the current eating habits of consumers here and to evaluate their awareness of Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assured (NIFQA) beef and lamb, as well as their familiarity with the Commission’s advertising campaign, Good Honest Food

The survey comes as the industry is preparing for the RUAS at Balmoral, the biggest showcase of the year for red meat and other food sectors. Around 100 food producers, including some meat processors, will be featured in our FoodNI Pavilion next month. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to visit the pavilion.

Red meat is also an important component of our own widely acclaimed Our Food: Power of Good marketing and promotional campaign. It’s a sector we value greatly and wish to see prosper.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good sirloin steak from a local supplier, and we have many excellent beef farmers rearing animals on rich pasture land, and quality conscious processors now exporting our beef across the world. However, I am always conscious to ‘balance it out’ with some fresh local veg, and maybe mushrooms as well.

The beef industry’s efforts will benefit from the recent EU PGI accreditation for grass fed-beef reared on the island of Ireland. Researchers have indicated that grass-fed beef is packed with nutrients and minerals and is generally healthier. I still remember being asked by American visitors if our beef was grass-fed, and looking puzzled at the question, but now understand the benefits.

We have some of the world’s most respected processors here, including several FoodNI members such as Hannan Meats in Moira and Kettyle Irish Foods in Fermanagh, both are investing heavily in the quality and outstanding flavours of their meats.  Maurice Kettyle and Peter Hannan are world class innovators in meat

Kettyle recently secured a significant contract to supply a range of premium cuts to Tesco Ireland. Peter Hannan, probably the most ‘decorated’ beef producer by organisations like UK Great Taste, Blas nah Eireann and World Steak Challenge is a keen supporter of local artisans including the multi-award-winning Abernethy Butter, a business he recently acquired and plans to expand.

Carnbrooke Meats in Moira and Dromore have outstanding farm shops, showcasing their own quality beef and lamb in many delicious meals and Lisdergan Meats in Fintona is an outstanding supporter of local producers, as well as a name that is now regularly seen on the menus of fine dining restaurants across Northern Ireland.

Other red meat processors like Dunbia and Linden in Dungannon and Foyle Foods at Campsie are also successful in global markets and are enhancing our reputation as a producer of delicious and nutritious beef.

Consumer commitment to eating and purchasing red meat remains steady. In terms of alternate diets, according to LMC. There hasn’t been any notable variation to the number of consumers reporting to follow vegetarian and vegan diets over recent years.

Interestingly, just two percent of local consumers claimed to follow a vegan diet, perhaps a surprising statistic in view of all the claims in the media.

The survey would seem to suggest that consumers now recognise the health and other benefits of eating quality red meat as part of a healthy, balanced diet. And for me, that is the key, everything in balance is vital for health and wellbeing.

The survey also found that 85 percent of consumers believe Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assured beef is high quality and 77 percent agree it is a natural source of vitamins and minerals. Our beef, lamb, pork and poultry is world class in terms of quality, texture and taste. And the farmers who rear the animals are also now making an important contribution to the environment and overall sustainability.