Bord Bia has strongly rejected claims that it greenwashes Irish beef and dairy goods in its marketing operations overseas.

The agency branded allegations of greenwashing as “unfounded and incorrect” in response to comments on the agri-food sector made by environmentalist Duncan Stewart on national radio last week.

“We have Bord Bia exporting beef and dairy, trying to give it a green slant which is clearly greenwashing,” Stewart told listeners of Newstalk’s breakfast show.

“It is very dishonest what they are doing in their exports of these products and we are not using our land properly,” he said in reference to Bord Bia.

Proven credentials

Bord Bia told the Irish Farmers Journal that it can verify the claims it makes regarding the sustainability credentials of Irish goods.

“Bord Bia markets Irish food, drink and horticulture worldwide on the basis of sustainability, traceability and quality,” the agency said.

It cited a farmer membership of over 54,000 in its sustainable assurance schemes for beef, lamb and dairy.

These members reduced greenhouse gas emissions on farms by approximately 6% in both the dairy and drystock sectors from 2014 to 2020, according to the agency’s spokesperson.

“The widespread membership of these schemes means that Bord Bia can make verified marketing claims about the sustainability of Irish dairy, beef and sheepmeat.”

It also said that the Irish agricultural sector knew there was a need to do more to “proactively contribute” to improved environmental sustainability, adding that its farmer schemes would support the sector in making such improvements.

‘Far too many cows’

Stewart told listeners that Ireland has too many cattle: “It is clear we have far too many cows in Ireland.”

He claimed that there is no sign of 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets being reached by the sector, adding that alternative revenue streams are needed for beef farmers as most cannot “make a living for selling their cattle”.

“We are good growing grass in Ireland and producing silage, and in my views, if half of that silage that we produce in Ireland was to go into local production of biogas, and if farmers were guaranteed a price that was good for them, it would offer them them a better living than they can make from cattle,” the environmentalist said.