South East Technological University (SETU) has been declared the winner of the 8th annual Great Agri-Food debate, organised by Dawn Meats and McDonald’s.

SETU defeated University College Cork (UCC) in the final, having opposed the motion that ‘The solution to negative consumer perceptions of red meat is more honest communication‘.

Eight teams from across Ireland and the UK – seven third-level institutions and one industry grouping – entered the competition this year including teams from Wales and Northern Ireland.

The final was held in person yesterday (March 28), at Butchers Hall in London.

Great Agri-Food Debate

In defeating UCC in the final, SETU made it three wins in a row following successes in 2021 and 2022.

SETU was established in May 2022, but it was formed through the amalgamation of IT Carlow and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).

WIT was the winner of the Great Agri-Food Debate in 2021 and 2022; the college also won in 2019.

Aberystwyth University made a return after its debut in 2021 as did last year’s newcomer, Munster Technological University (MTU) and PYF – a team of placement-year students from McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmers programme.

These relative newcomers were joined by College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE); Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT); UCC; University College Dublin (UCD); and SETU.

The preliminary round of debates took place virtually, as they did in 2022, with this enabling wider participation in the contest.

This year is the first time the event involved a hybrid of both online and in-person debates.

Commenting after the debate, Niall Browne, CEO Dawn Meats said: “Every year at this debate, there are new and complex motions that deserve the attention of our industry.

“We witnessed some well-accomplished debating from a strong cohort of students whose insights, intelligence and enthusiasm make me really positive about the future of Irish and British agriculture.

“Hearty congratulations to the winning team, and my thanks to our partners McDonald’s and all the participants and judges and for making this event such a success.”

Harriet Wilson, agriculture and sustainable sourcing manager for McDonald’s UK and Ireland added: “The Great Agri-Food Debate always sparks thoughtful discussions, and this year was no different.

“We know that in order to futureproof the agriculture industry, we must engage the next generation, so it’s been really inspiring to hear the views from our Progressive Young Farmers and all students involved, on these important topics.”

Best Speaker was awarded to Barry Stratford from UCC.

The final was judged by a range of representatives from the agri-food industry and beyond, including Harriet Wilson, agriculture and sustainable sourcing at McDonald’s UK and Ireland; Niall Browne, CEO Dawn Meats and Dunbia; Junior Johnson, director of Operations Food Standards Agency; Siobhan Barnes, senior procurement manager, agriculture and aquaculture Whitbread; and Nick Allen, CEO of British Meat Processors’ Association.