In a wide-ranging conversation with Irish Farmers Journal editor Jack Kennedy, Dawn Meats CEO Niall Browne spoke about the recent investments by the company, the Irish beef and sheep sector and the prospects for the beef PGI and his experience with it in Scotland, Wales and southwest England.

PGI experience

Given the Dawn experience of working with the PGI in these other locations, it is clear that the bar is higher for the recently acquired Irish grass fed PGI.

He said that “we have now introduced PGI grass fed with consultations [between] Brussels, Bord Bia and the Dept of Agriculture... that is going to be a slower burn because we do PGI in Wales, Scotland and south west Britain but the rules around the Irish PGI are much more onerous”.

Given Niall Browne’s experience with using PGIs he described the Irish one as “a little bit of a complicated one that we are trying to navigate our way through now that we understand the final spec”.

When it was put to him that he didn’t sound too optimistic on the PGI in the short term, he spoke about Dawn having its own grass-fed standard in place before the PGI, adding that “the last thing we want to do is tell those customers they can’t have what they already have”.

French exit, Kildare arrival

When asked about why after several years, Dawn Meats decided to sell the minority shareholding they had in Elivia, a major processor in France, Niall Browne explained that as they got to know the business, they believed it needed change but their “partners didn’t have the same ambition”.

That was in June last year and Dawn’s next move was to acquire the Kildare Chilling business which processed beef and sheep meat. He described it as a business with “lots of potential” and that they would “bring our own efficiencies and more sales options to the business. When asked had they any more acquisition plans, he answered that they were “always looking for opportunities”.

Moving on to farm gate prices, he said these were set by the market but highlighted the relative improvement in Irish farm gate price relative to the EU average over the years.

Genetics

He also spoke about the benefits of specification, genetics and reducing the age of slaughter to maximise efficiency.

Genetics are particularly applicable to calves from the dairy herd given their increasing influence on the national kill. Niall Browne said that “dairy beef can be an opportunity if managed properly” and that the market has moved away from heavy cattle.

As for UK trade deals, he said that while we need to keep an eye on them, the industry has always had issues and has dealt with them before.

While beef dominated the discussion, he also highlighted that while farmers have had good prices this year, it has made hard work for factories. Also despite the BSE setbacks, he is optimistic for the longer term in China where Dawn was the top supplier from the EU prior to the first BSE suspension of exports from Ireland.

ADVERTISEMENT