Former Newry and Mourne Director of District Development, Gerard McGivern in his present role as Chairman of the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) has said that a new narrative must be created regarding the lifestyles followed by people in the 21st century, adding “As part of this our red meat sector must communicate a balanced message to UK consumers, one that reflects the strong commitment of Northern Ireland’s livestock farmers to produce beef and lamb of the highest quality in a sustainable manner.”

The LMC recently hosted a visit to its headquarters’  on the outskirts of Lisburn for members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Ireland (Northern Section). A wide range of subjects were discussed.

 Commission CEO Ian Stevenson explained that the red meat sector contributes £1.2 billion to the local economy on an annual basis. This works out at around 25% of the total sales generated by all of Northern Ireland’s food processers.

Gerard McGivern, Chairman, LMC speaking at a visit by the Guild of Agricultural Journalists (Northern Section) to the Livestock Marketing Commission headquarters in Lisburn. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Gerard McGivern, Chairman, LMC speaking at a visit by the Guild of Agricultural Journalists (Northern Section) to the Livestock Marketing Commission headquarters in Lisburn. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

The Commission representative reflected on the success generated by Bord Bia’s Origin Green campaign in the Republic of Ireland. He commented “Replicating this work, in the context of Northern Ireland, is an aspiration that has tremendous merit. But above all else locally produced food has a tremendously positive story to tell. And it must be told in the most effective manner, here at home, in the rest of the UK and further afield.”

LMC Chairman Gerard McGivern stressed the need for the red meat industry to be represented at the very heart of whatever future food marketing arrangements are put in place for Northern Ireland.

Red meat consumption 

Ian Stevenson referenced the pressure that had been on put on red meat consumption levels in the UK over the past 12 months. He said:

“UK consumers are choosing to eat meat less often. Consumption levels were stagnant for most of last year. This was an important factor in driving down producer prices for much of this period.

“Lamb consumption levels are particularly price sensitive. Demand drops significantly if farmgate returns increase by any extent.

“However, we know that 92% of local consumers eat red meat on a regular basis. But they also want to know that it is produced in a sustainable manner and that it can contribute to a healthy diet.

“LMC works closely with retailers to communicate a direct message to consumers, particularly during Beef Week and Love Lamb Week.”

“We are also fully aware of the raised public profile that has given to veganism and non meat alternatives in the diet over recent times. Our job is to communicate a balanced message, where red meat is concerned.

“But it is also a fact that many forms of vegan diet are not nutritionally balanced at all. In fact, they are very unhealthy.    

But according, to Ian Stevenson it’s not all bad news. He commented “Consumption of red meat is set to increase dramatically across most of South East Asia. This trend has been fuelled by the growing prosperity levels now apparent across the region.

“Beef from Northern Ireland will soon be heading for China. Opportunities for local processers to supply this and other markets in South East Asia will allow them to secure better overall prices for the carcasses they are working with.”

LMC management wants public bodies in Northern Ireland to procure more locally produced beef and lamb. It is felt that the new Stormont Executive can help in this regard. Gerard McGivern explained “We see no reason why the various public departments operating in Northern Ireland cannot specify the supply of farm quality assured meat and lamb only when it comes to the setting of the relevant food procurement contracts.

“Lamb fares particularly badly when it comes to local public sector procurement practises.” 

Summing up Ian Stevenson added “LMC is well placed to play its part as the red meat industry prepares to have its say in the development of a new food marketing body for Northern Ireland.

 “The beef and sheep industries are on the cusp of major change. However, LMC is ready to fully support both sectors going forward.”











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