Bord Bia launches world’s first scientifically supported Grass Fed Standard for milk

Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, has launched a Grass Fed Standard, the world’s first on a national scale, that allows it to track and verify the percentage of grass consumed in the diet of Irish dairy herds.

Irish dairy processors will now be able to provide verifiable proof that the milk used in products and ingredients has come from grass fed cows.

The Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard is a processor scheme which sets out the Grass Fed rules that must be adhered to for milk from individual farms, and for milk pooled for primary processing, to be classified as Grass Fed. The minimum acceptable Grass Fed figure for an individual herd to qualify as Grass Fed is 90% on a fresh weight basis. This figure is achieved through the use of a scientific Grass Fed Dairy Model (which quantifies the volume of grass consumed by dairy cows) and Bord Bia web-based software to assess the Grass Fed status of the milk from individual farms for processing against the Grass Fed rules.

The Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard model has been developed by Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority – at its Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, the leading research centre on milk production in Ireland – and will use data collected during the government-approved Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) on-farm audits to determine it meets the Grass Fed rules.

To meet the standard, Irish dairy herds need a diet that is a minimum of 90% grass. Milk that is pooled from various dairy processors for processing must achieve a Grass Fed average of 95%. In Ireland, dairy cows spend on average 2401 full days a year out on pasture. It is expected that 99% of Irish dairy farms will meet the Grass Fed threshold due to the nature of Irish production systems.

Irish dairy producers will also have verifiable proof, in the form of a Grass Fed Standard logo, to support a Grass Fed claim on eligible products, which will help differentiate products.

The move acknowledges the growing consumer demand for greater clarity on the provenance of food and drink products, as well as the desire to purchase dairy from sustainable, Grass Fed farming systems.

In addition, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the quality credentials and taste benefits of Grass Fed dairy, with research showing that Grass Fed would influence 50% of consumers globally in their choice of dairy; while a further 58% stated they would be willing to pay more for Grass Fed dairy.

Speaking about the initiative, Mary Morrissey, senior dairy manager at Bord Bia, said: “Dairy from Ireland has always been rooted in a grass-based production system. Our lush green fields, fresh clean air and plentiful rain has created the perfect environment for dairy farming which converts grass into nutrient-rich, premium quality dairy products and ingredients.

“This initiative will allow producers using Irish dairy to differentiate their product to buyers across the foodservice and retail markets, and appeal to consumers who are increasingly seeking granular detail on the narrative and provenance of the products they buy.

“Since the beginning of this year, the continued close relationship between the Irish Dairy industry and the UK is evident, with over £1 million worth of exports hitting UK shelves ensuring availability of core dairy products to the UK market. This initiative further strengthens this relationship and reinforces the trust UK consumers have in the high quality and sustainable farming methods of produce from Ireland.”

The Grass Fed Dairy Standard has been recognised by Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) and Irish dairy processors are working to put in place the systems to have dairy products verified this year and into 2021.

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