“You don’t just get this on the basis of a good story.” Those are the words of beef sector manager with Bord Bia, Mark Zieg, who was speaking about the protected geographical indication (PGI) application for ‘Irish Grass Fed Beef’ on the AgriFocus podcast by Agriland.

Zieg explained that the European Commission needs evidence and proof from applicants that a particular product has the unique qualities that differentiate it from other products on the market.

Earlier this month, the European Commission’s published the all-island application for a PGI for ‘Irish Grass Fed Beef’.

EU quality policy aims to protect the names of specific products to promote their unique characteristics, linked to their geographical origin as well as traditional know-how.

Product names can be granted a ‘geographical indication’ (GI) if they have a specific link to the place where they are made.

The GI recognition enables consumers to trust and distinguish quality products while also helping producers to market their products better.

PGI application process

Stressing that the European Commission is quite discerning when determining if a product should receive PGI status, Zieg said: “You have to be able to prove those points that you make as the key qualities that differentiate your product and make it unique and make it protectable.

“This is the thing ultimately. This is nearly like a trademark, it has to be unique and protectable.”

The initial application for PGI status was a joint project between Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, however Northern Ireland wished to be included in the PGI proposal, so the application was resubmitted as an all-island prospect.

“Irish beef is produced north of the border as well [as southern Ireland] and has sold well in Europe,” Zieg continued.

“We have accounts over the years… where Irish beef and Irish grass-fed beef from both sides of the border would have been produced [for European markets].

“Our counterparts up there [NI] are working on putting those proofs in place.

“We were fortunate I suppose, in terms of… this is Irish Grass Fed Beef, we have the grass-fed standard here and that’s the main provable requirement for the PGI, which is the grass-fed standard – 90% grass-fed in the diet,” Zieg told AgriFocus.

The Bord Bia representative said Northern Ireland is currently working on getting a similar quality assured standard up and running to match the Origin Green standard.

Waiting game

After the publication of the PGI application earlier this month by the European Commission, the process remains open to opposition from other countries for a period of three months.

Bord Bia is optimistic that the PGI for Irish Grass Fed Beef will be registered at the end of the public consultation but has not ruled out the possibility of objections.

“We could get objections here. That would not be unusual or would not be insurmountable,” Zieg explained.

“We would have to address those to the satisfaction of the commission. We didn’t get them [objections] the last time, we would hope that would be very much the case but we can’t pre-judge that,” Zieg stated.

You can listen to the full interview with Mark Zieg on the AgriFocus podcast by clicking here.