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Confirmation highlights ‘major irregularity’ in conditions laid down by Irish meat factories

Wednesday 18th June, 2014 – Senior executives of Tesco UK have confirmed to ICOS that Tesco’s final farm residency requirement for cattle prior to going to slaughter in meat factories is 20 days of continuous residency on the last quality assured farm prior to slaughter.

In the UK, Tesco observes the Red Tractor Beef Quality Assurance Scheme which requires cattle to reside on a quality assured farm for a total of 90 days prior to slaughter.  The 90 days can be made up of any combination of days on one or more farms.  Tesco stipulates that 20 days of this time must be spent continuously on the last farm prior to slaughter.

This highlights a major irregularity in the position of Irish owned meat factories who require Irish cattle to reside for a continuous 70 day period on their last farm prior to slaughter,  which they state is due to ‘consumer requirements’.

This measure radically exceeds the provisions of the Bord Bia Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme which allows for movements between quality assured farms during the 70 day period.

The Irish meat factories enforce this measure through their Quality Payment System where cattle that have moved holdings in the last 70 days before slaughter are penalised and do not qualify for the QPS bonus.  The QPS is also withheld if cattle have had more than four movements from farm to farm prior to slaughter, even if all farms are quality assured.

This practice discriminates specifically against the livestock marts sector where Irish meat factories have effectively removed trade in factory fit animals from livestock marts.

The volume of factory-fit animals going to slaughter via a livestock mart has decreased significantly and there is also an ongoing decrease in the cull cow trade in marts.  Since the introduction of QPS, only 2.48% of factory fit animals are now being traded in a mart.  The 70 days residency stipulation is also affecting forward store sales in marts.

The factory QPS bonus is 12 cents/kg or approximately €50 per animal.  This amounts to a form of price fixing for fat stock sales as a farmer loses this payment if an animal has been traded through a mart in the 70 day finishing period prior to slaughter.

The factories contend that the basis for this restriction is consumer driven.  However, there is no scientifically based animal welfare or meat quality rationale for the imposition of this movement restriction which has the effect of distorting free trade.

Also in the UK, retailer ASDA imposes no specifications either on the number of farms an animal has been on or if it has moved through a mart in the last 70 days.

The onerous conditions imposed by meat plants around the movement of livestock have no basis in terms of regulation or meat quality and no justification on animal welfare or veterinary grounds.  They are simply being used as a market control measure.

ICOS (the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society) represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €14 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas. Outside of ICOS member co-ops, it is estimated that over 3 million Irish people are members of at least one co-operative.


Ray Doyle, Livestock & Environmental Services Executive, ICOS  Tel Direct: +353 (0)1 613 1319

Tim Kinsella, MKC Communications, 086 813 7512