The UK's National Beef Association (NBA) has demanded that the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC) act to reverse low cattle prices affecting farmers in the province. Cattle in Northern Ireland that are bred similar those on the mainland are often sold for less.
The association believes that a high value market needs to be established in the Province, and wants the Commission to lead an effort to install niche markets for local beef. This however will not be achieved without mild restructuring of the current slaughter system, which is geared towards dispatching large volumes of meat to the leading supermarkets.
The LMC has been asked to encourage more contract slaughtering in Northern Ireland and to assist in the construction of medium-sized abattoirs that have greater flexibility to serve niche outlets. This, the NBA believes, would allow a wider range of cattle types to be sold for more money.
In addition, the NBA wants to see factory owners stop paying low prices for prime cattle. The association argues that the payment of low prices is reducing cattle numbers, and could force some farmers to leave cattle production altogether.
The Commission could also improve the situation for Northern Ireland's beef farmers by making sure that the re-establishment of markets for older beef from January 2004 is effective and properly implemented. This, says the association might aid the development of specialist labels for prime beef cuts sold to restaurants and to other EU countries.