The beef sector continues to act as the mainstay of many rural communities across the country with over 90,000 farm families involved in the sector, producing record exports worth over €2.5 billion to the economy in 2022, according to the Irish Beef Sector Sustainability Report and roadmap to 2030.
Launched today by Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, the report which was published by Meat Industry Ireland (MII), highlights the significant sustainability progress that has been made to date given the emphasis that is demanded by the marketplace.
“This report recognises the higher standards the marketplace demands of the beef processing sector in terms of sustainability and how this will only become more important in the years ahead," Minister McConalogue said.
"I believe all partners in the sector must come together to ensure that sustainability, in all its dimensions, is at the core of everything we do, as set out in our shared Food Vision 2030 strategy. Industry has a key role to play in ensuring this sustainability, and particularly in contributing to the sustainability - economic and environmental - of its farm family suppliers.”
The Ibec sector organisation representing the country’s main primary beef processing companies noted that there is a strong focus on how the beef sector will contribute towards the 25% emissions reduction target for agriculture, as set out in the National Climate Action Plan.
At processing level, the focus for the coming decade is centred around decarbonisation.
By 2030, processors will aim to reduce Scope 1 & 2 emissions intensity by more than 50% and reduce Scope 3 emissions intensity by 30%, it added.
This will 'reduce absolute emissions at farm level and these reductions will be fully reflected in the agricultural greenhouse gas inventory'
According to MII its members are committed to delivering individual sustainability programmes to incentivise their suppliers guided by the Beef Sustainability Charter, which will be published separately.
Actions Will Focus On:
- National Roadmap on Age of Finishing: Reducing age at finish with a focus on weight for age to ensure emissions are minimised and a financially sustainable dairy-beef and suckler system is delivered. The new Climate Action Plan target of 22-23 months will add to a cumulative reduction in emissions by 2030.
- Genetic research: Genetics have the potential to mitigate up to 400,000 tonnes of GHG emissions annually by 2030. MII members have a clear objective of driving genetic improvement in the beef herd which has already delivered strong results, with 76% of replacement heifers now four/five Star compared to 52% in 2015.
- Commercial Beef Value Index: Implementation of dairy breeding strategies that utilise the Commercial Beef Value Index, methane traits and carbon sub-index to ensure calves most suitable for beef production are produced.
- National Genotyping programme: Genotyping all animals at birth is critical in providing the surety needed in terms of genetic merit for climate and the environment and ensuring these factors are front and centre of breeding strategies.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Philip Carroll, chairperson of Meat Industry Ireland, said, “With growing emphasis on climate change and the need to meet new and challenging greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, Meat Industry Ireland’s primary beef processing industry members have been focussed on building on our sustainability efforts, which have been further driven in line with Food Vision 2030.
"Over the next decade and beyond, even higher standards of agri-food sustainability will be demanded in the marketplace. Customers will increasingly prioritise sourcing from suppliers that contribute to and support their own sustainability agendas. This provides a crucial opportunity for the Irish beef sector to reinforce its position as a solutions provider to deliver on customer targets.”
Dale Crammond, director of Meat Industry Ireland echoed the sentiments and added, “Our clear message is that Ireland’s primary beef processing sector will continue to build on its reputation as a world-class sustainable food producer and supplier. Irish beef processors are amongst the leaders in Europe in their work to reduce the environmental footprint of our industry."