All players along the EU food chain need to be subjected to audit and full transparency, according to the ICSA president Edmond Phelan.
He said that can only be achieved with an EU level auditor tasked with analysing and publicising “who makes the profit from beef”.
“Farmers are on their knees in terms of income and this is the only way to expose retailers or processors who take excess margin from the food chain.”
“If the MII wants its members to be taken seriously, then the practice of operating secretly behind unlimited company structures where profits are deliberately concealed cannot continue.”
Figures from MII and Bord Bia
Mr Phelan’s comments follow the vast difference in figures on what the farmer share of the final retail price is on beef.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) figures suggest farmers are receiving a 63% share. “Many farmers will see the MII figures as outrageous spin and this will only serve to infuriate farmers further,” he said
Figures from MII come on the back of Bord Bia suggesting that the farmer share of the retail is 40%.
“Both sets of figures can’t be right; they are clearly using different methodologies and as a result, neither can be relied on to give an accurate reflection.”
Retail price of €8.97/kg
“Moreover, the starting point seems to be an average retail price of €8.97/kg, but it must be pointed out that such figures are very limited when you look at all the variations in terms of markets.”
The figures, he stressed, are also potentially distorted by excessive use of beef as a loss leader in order to lure in customers to retail multinationals who then profit on sales of other products.
“Questions must also be asked about how some supermarkets are now charging €7 for two fake burgers when they have spent years telling us that consumers will not pay any more than €10 for two steaks.”
“How can supermarkets justify selling fake burgers at a price in excess of €30/kg when genuine beef burgers are being sold for around €8.55/kg?”
He highlighted that a genuine beef burger is priced at less than one-third the price of a fake burger, even though the fake burger has one third more fat, almost double the salt content and less protein than a real burger.
The main ingredient in a real beef burger is 93% beef; the single largest component of the fake burger is pea protein isolate at 18% and then a long list of ingredients not readily recognisable such as modified corn starch, methylcellulose and maltodextrin.
“How has this been allowed to happen? Is it a failure of marketing or a stunning indictment of how Irish meat processors have consistently allowed retailers to undermine beef to consumers while farmers take all the pain?” he concluded.