TD demands analysis of feedlot impact on beef prices

The dramatic increase in factory feedlots in recent years “is a certain factor” in the poor beef prices farmers receive, claims Deputy Matt Carthy.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture has written to Minister Charlie McConalogue requesting the department carry out a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of factory-owned feedlots in the market, including their impacts on prices and the environment.

In response to a parliamentary question, it was revealed to Deputy Matt Carthy that the number of slaughtered cattle at Controlled Finishing Units (CFUs) had increased by over 34% between 2015 and 2020. Deputy Carthy interprets CFU as the term the department use for factory feedlots. The Department cautions that the term is used in the context of the Bovine TB Eradication Programme, adding: “This definition is unique to that programme and does not necessarily mirror the use of the term “feedlot” by the public and/or other institutions”.

Stagnating

“The intervention of factory feedlot cattle is a certain significant factor in the stagnating beef prices received by farmers,” said Deputy Carthy.

He queried the Department’s figure of 295,000 for 2018, noting “contemporary reporting compiled independently” placed the figure in excess of 315,000.

“This discrepancy needs to be explained,” he insisted. “But, regardless, what the Department’s own figures do indicate is an increase of over 33% since 2015.

“The meat industry has been telling farmers since the onset of Covid-19, that demand in the hospitality sector has been ‘decimated’ with retail increases not sufficient to offset the effect. They should also explain why, in that case, feedlot slaughter figures for the first two months of 2021 were comparable to 2020.

“Unfortunately, the government have never carried out a comprehensive analysis of the element in meat production, including its impact on prices and its environmental affects.”

He claimed the growth of factory feedlots presents “an existential threat” to Irish beef.

“Consumers all over the world purchase Irish beef on the back of the image of the farmer in the field alongside their cows and calves. But, if the proportion of beef being produced in this country coming from factory feedlots continues to grow then so too will that image.”

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