The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called on businesses operating in the food services sector to procure more from Irish farmers, following the release of a new analysis that shows over one in three pigmeat products cannot be traced back to farms in Ireland. The Irish Foodservice DNA Verified Survey for 2022, released by the IFA on Wednesday, looked into the origin of pigmeat products sold in various sectors in Ireland. While 97% of pigmeat products in the retail sector could be traced back to Irish farms, only 61% of such products in the food services sector could be similarly traced. The samples were collected independently of the IFA.
The food services sector, which includes fast food restaurants, hotels, service stations, deli counters, and butchers, was found to be “not supporting the Irish pigmeat sector,” according to Tim Cullinan, president of the IFA. He urged the sector to “close the gap” on the benchmark that retailers have set. “The Irish pig sector continues to experience turbulent times, and the results of this survey highlight where the support must come from to help pig farms overcome the 18 months of decline in price,” he said.
The IFA used its boar DNA database to determine whether pigmeat samples in the market matched with a boar from an Irish farm in the database. The survey involved 582 tests on various pigmeat products, of which 73% could be traced back to Irish farms. Of these, 401 tests were conducted on samples from the Irish food service sector, which included 34 individual outlets. These companies have a combined reach of 2,600 locations nationwide.
The survey found that in the food service sector, only 55% of rashers could be traced back to Irish farms, compared to 65% of ham products and 85% of pork products. Roy Gallie, chair of the IFA’s national pigs committee, said DNA “doesn’t lie,” and that this new data allows them to “hold various outlets to account” when they claim something is Irish when it is not. He called on the food service sector to source more Irish products, saying that it was important to “stick up for ourselves.”
Mr. Gallie urged the food service sector to have “a bit of pride” in sourcing Irish products rather than just basing their decisions on price. He added that in some cases, businesses were found to be advertising products as Irish, but when tested, “this is proven to be false and this is hugely disappointing.” He said that such companies were “marketing themselves off the back of the high standards of production which Irish pig farms hold, and for them to undermine that label is unacceptable.”
The IFA’s call for more support for Irish farmers from the food services sector comes at a time when the pig sector in Ireland is experiencing a decline in prices. The IFA has urged the sector to step up and help pig farms overcome this decline.