A Review of the Beef Food Chain

Date: February 2008

Downloads

This review of the beef food chain revealed that men are eating too much beef and women are eating too little. It also highlighted that consumers have enhanced confidence in the beef food chain on the island and the industry enforcement controls that are in place.

The review outlines that while beef remains extremely popular and that three out of four people on the island eat it regularly, the average portion size consumed during a meal is 121g with men consuming more than women. This intake far exceeds health professional recommendations of 57g in a single portion of lean, red meat, or ideally one ninth of your dinner plate.

Key findings

  • In economic terms, the beef sector is a very valuable commodity. In Northern Ireland, the beef and sheep sectors account for the largest share of gross turnover in the food processing sector at 23 percent (£580/€879 million). In the Republic of Ireland cattle and beef account for the largest share of Gross Agriculture Output at 29 percent (€1.5/£1.0 billion).
  • The Republic of Ireland exported approximately 90 percent of the beef produced (516,000 tonnes) and 250,000 live cattle in 2006. Of all the beef produced in Northern Ireland in that that year, 73 percent (104,000 tonnes) was sold in Great Britain.
  • The safety of both domestically produced and imported beef is regulated by regional and European legislation primarily enforced by the FSA and the FSAI. A number of quality assurance schemes also operate in both jurisdictions to promote standards for the production of beef produced on the island and to safeguard markets for beef and beef products.
  • hot burger and thermometer graphicThe establishment of national food safety regulatory bodies together with enhanced monitoring, traceability systems and controls on animals entering the food chain, has greatly restored confidence in the wake of the BSE crisis. The number of BSE infected cattle on the island of Ireland has reduced from a peak of 500 cases in the mid 1990s to 37 in 2007.
  • Consumer research indicated concerns about E. coli O157 with beef and beef products, usually minced beef products. New legislation and regulations concerning the handling of animals at the time of processing, together with separation of raw and cooked meats in butchers’ outlets are in place and incidence of E.coli outbreaks from beef and other foods has decreased in recent years.
  • When choosing cuts of beef, choose fresh unprocessed cuts and where possible lean cuts or trim the fat following purchase. Beef tends to be consumed in larger portion sizes than other meats. The recommended individual portion size for beef is approximately 57g (2oz). It is advised that people who eat red meat should consume less than 500g (approximately 17.5 oz; cooked) a week, very little if any to be processed.
  • The balance of other food groups such as fruit and vegetables and wholegrains in association with lean red meat intake is important in the prevention of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
  • Whole cuts of beef, such as roast beef and steaks can be cooked to preference, i.e. rare, as long as they are cooked on the outside. But as a precaution, vulnerable people including older people, babies and toddlers, pregnant women and individuals who are unwell, should avoid eating beef that is rare or pink.
  • Minced meat, burgers, rolled meats and kebabs should always be cooked until piping hot all the way through, with no pink meat remaining and the juices running clear.

a cow, a factory and a truck