ALL BEEFED UP
Updated: Sep 21, 2022
The news that Ireland is looking for our grass fed beef to be officially recognized as PGI status is long overdue. After all our beef has a worldwide reputation for its sheer quality. I have seen chef’s abroad swoon at the thoughts of getting their hands on our prized red meat. It was even used as the chosen beef before the native stuff for a world cooking contest in France. The Middle East and Asia go mad for it too.
PGI means Protected Geographical Status in case you are not up to speed on all these EU acronyms. It’s an EU programme to protect and promote traditional food produce synonymous with a place thereby an essential part of their culture and identity. The only snag now is that from Brexit it might be tricky to include Northern Ireland; the poor cows don’t care what their nationality is. Scottish beef has got a similar label already but Scotland is no longer in the EU so does that mean its beef is now stripped of its badge? The cows will no doubt vote for independence.
In Europe since the early nineties we have had these special foods ring fenced with this PGI scheme and another two types called PDO (protected designation of origin) and TSG (traditional specialities guaranteed). They can be confusing but generally the first category is identifying foods produced in specific regions so it’s about the place used as the name of the product like Champagne or Parma ham. Remember there are similar sparkling wines like champagne and look and taste alike cured hams made elsewhere both in Europe and around the world. The image on the right immediately make you think of just one country in the eyes of the world.
So, identity protection in names is crucial for sales and branding of a food product. PDO protects named regional products that are specific to an area like Feta cheese being Greek. TSG is really about protecting a specific character of a product and differs from the other two in that the local link is not necessary so it’s more about the method or recipe which Belgium beer has for example.
So what about Ireland, what foods have been listed so far? Well we are not great on getting our precious food products up in these food hall of fame charts, we just have ten at the moment, Waterford Blaa bread, Imokilly cheese and Timoleague brown pudding in Cork, Clare Island salmon, the various Irish Cream liquors like Bailey’s as one listing, Irish whiskey as a single group, Oriel Sea Salt and Minerals in Louth, Sneem Black Pudding in Kerry and Connemara Hill lamb. The Oriel products and the cheese are PDO’s and the rest PGI’s.
We fall way behind France with hundreds of protected products and they led the way devising these systems with their protection of wine labels back in the day. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but in the cut throat world of business, especially food, if you have a hit on your hands then someone is going to replicate it, that’s only human nature.
So why are there not more Irish food products running for these accreditations? Well, maybe we just do not have enough in the larder like the French or Italians. Our food heritage is actually long and historic and it is heritage week right now so no better time to put our best products out there for the world to love. Irish stew and bacon and cabbage are national dishes then our brown bread is certainly special as is Halloween barm brack, our various potato dishes and even Irish coffee pictured above. What about Tayto crisps, our porter, our famous breakfast fry up, our seaweed products and native oysters, there’s even say Dublin coddle as well. So there are plenty of contenders for an official seal of approval. It’s high time we got more of our own products on the Euro menu.
Cattle photo courtesy of Kevin Meade