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Dawn Meats are delighted to have received Gold and Bronze awards at the 8th annual Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards, held as part of the Dingle Food Festival on 3rd October 2015. Over 2500 products were entered into this year’s competition to win Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards in over 90 food and drink categories. Products from Dawn Meats to receive awards were:

Gold  - Beef Stir Fry with Peppers
Bronze  - Lidl Half Lamb Leg

Blas na hÉireann, The Irish Food Awards, are the biggest blind tasting competition for quality Irish produce in Ireland, and the criteria on which the products are judged as well as the judging system itself, which was developed by Blas na hÉireann with the Food Science Dept of UCC, is now recognised as an industry standard. The awards are a fantastic opportunity to not only celebrate great Irish products, but also the local suppliers and the passionate individuals behind them.

Irish agriculture may contribute 32pc of Irish emissions, but agriculture worldwide contributes only 12pc, and no one is looking at Ireland's natural ability for carbon sequestration during beef production.

This year has already brought many challenges and opportunities for Irish agriculture. An industry with an annual output of €24bn employing over 150,000 people in Ireland, agriculture has played a pivotal role in leading the country's economic recovery and delivering a much-needed dose of national confidence.

After more than 30 years, the lifting of dairy quotas this year opened the door to increased export revenue and the potential for considerable job creation. Opportunities also continue to open up for Irish beef exports, with markets such as China and the United States lifting their bans on exports of Irish beef this year. The opportunities for the sector will continue to emerge as Ireland's association with quality, traceability and sustainability strengthens.

2015 has also been an important year in the global debate on the pace and effects of climate change. With the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris approaching in December, many critical issues will be debated in the months to come. COP21 will be an important conference, with a focus on achieving a new international agreement on the climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

At a national level, agriculture is a significant contributor to Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. It accounts for approximately 32pc of our total emissions, a figure that underscores the role Irish agriculture plays in our economy. The Irish government has set out ambitious targets for further growth and development, so as to take full advantage of the opportunities for our industry. The challenge is to drive Irish export growth and feed a growing global population while respecting our environmental limits, not to mention legal obligations to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Irish agriculture has come under the spotlight of late as stakeholders examine ways to square this circle. There is the belief in some quarters that the objectives of initiatives like Food Harvest 2020 (which includes a target to increase beef production by 20pc) are incompatible with Ireland's legal greenhouse gas reduction obligations.

There is criticism of what some view as government rhetoric around emissions reductions and a lack of concrete proposals to achieve these. There is also a fear that attempts to protect "privileged sectors", such as agriculture, will result in unfair concessions for food producers and a disproportionate effect on other sectors of the economy. The blunt solution suggested by detractors is that Ireland should, as a responsible global citizen, reduce food production in order to meet the mandated emissions targets.

The truth is that Ireland's high rainfall combined with our grass-based feeding system makes for a sustainable beef production environment compared with other regions of the world. Within the European Union the average CO2 output per kilogram of beef is 22.1kg, whereas in Ireland it is 14pc lower at 19kg. Put simply, swapping an Irish cow for one somewhere else in Europe will actually increase the overall global carbon footprint, even if it helps Ireland hit emissions targets.

It is worth considering the broader sector context. While Irish agriculture contributes 32pc of total Irish emissions, agriculture worldwide contributes only 12pc, with energy production contributing 75pc. This gives an idea of the scale of the challenge facing us all.

Ireland also has a natural advantage in terms of carbon sequestration - the removal of carbon from the atmosphere and its long-term storage. The carbon released in the production of beef for example, is offset by that carbon being stored by the grassland, soils and forestry on Irish farms. Our climate is naturally ideal for grass production, and carbon sequestration should be taken into account when looking at national emissions - currently it is not.

Reducing emissions is important, and at Dawn we have made huge efforts to address the environmental sustainability of our business. We introduced a group sustainability plan in 2009 which made core commitments to reduce our environmental footprint including: a 50pc reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020; a 40pc reduction in water and energy use by 2020; and a 50pc increase in recycling of waste by the end of this year.

To date, we have achieved annual water savings of 56m litres and reduced thermal energy consumption by 50pc across all sites. Among the most ambitious projects to date has been our development of a seven-acre wetland and eco-park in Carroll's Cross, Co Waterford, a low-carbon effluent treatment method, improving biodiversity and also sequestering carbon. Carroll's Cross was also the site of our first fossil fuel-free plant in 2014 reducing our dependency on non-renewable energy and the associated carbon emissions.

Dawn Meats and many of our industry peers have supported and driven initiatives such as Bord Bia's Origin Green programme which is helping Irish food producers demonstrate to international customers the verifiable achievements being made to ensure supply chain sustainability. The industry has recognised and advocated the importance of a proactive, innovative approach from an early stage.

Origin Green is a global first, with Ireland taking a leadership role in making a commercial virtue of climate-smart agriculture. Irish food producers continue to take huge steps in this area, and given the collective goal of reducing global emissions it would be an exercise in futility to reduce Irish beef production to meet emissions targets, and shift production to less-sustainable production systems overseas.

There is a tendency to view sustainability purely in terms of carbon emissions. Whilst measurements like these are important, sustainable production should be viewed in a more holistic way, recognising the benefits that it can bring to the Irish economy, at a national level, and in towns and villages all around the country.

Finally we need to consider the global food security threat that we face, with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasting a 50pc increase in food demand by 2030. Few would dispute the urgency of the emissions reduction challenge facing Ireland and countries all over the world. It is important, however, that sustainability should take into account the significant contribution to addressing this challenge that Ireland's rich and varied agri-business sector is making in an environmentally responsible way.

We also need to remind ourselves that any drop in food production in this country will quickly be filled by other, less-sustainable locations.

Dawn Meats has been awarded 10 stars at this year’s Great Taste Awards, including a 3-gold star for our very own ‘West Country Choice Tomahawk Steak’ as announced by the Guild of Fine Foods. Put forward for even more scrutiny from 40 high profile food experts, it was agreed that our ‘West Country Choice Tomahawk Steak’ also deserved a place among the Top 50 Foods list of 2015.
The Top 50 Foods list, which has been whittled down from 10,000 entries by the most experienced and professional food judges, can now be viewed on www.greattasteawards.co.uk.

Other products from Dawn Meats to achieve gold star status include:

2-Star - Ridings Reserve Extra Matured Flat Iron Steak
2-Star - Ridings Reserve Salt Marsh Lamb French Rack Cap-On
2-Star - Ridings Reserve Salt Marsh Lamb Chump
1-Star - Ridings Reserve Salt Marsh Lamb Striploin

As one of the world’s largest blind-tasted food awards the Great Taste Awards are widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality fine food and drink. Recognised as a stamp of excellence among consumers and retailers alike, Great Taste values taste above all else, with branding and packaging ignored. Each product is blind tasted, the judges then savour, confer and re-taste to decide which products are worthy of a 1-, 2- or 3-star award. Receiving 10 stars from the Great Taste further verifies Dawn Meats as a producer of products that are exceptional in quality and outstanding in taste.

This year saw over 10,000 entries judged by a 400 strong judging panel of the nation’s most discerning and respected food experts. Only 130 products have been awarded 3-star gold, including our very own ‘West Country Choice Tomahawk Steak’. To receive a 3-star rating, every judge at each judging session, had to unanimously agree that the food delivered exceptional quality and taste.

A panel of judges including Masterchef judge and restaurant critic Charles Campion, TV presenter and cook, Aggie Mackenzie, Great British Bake Off winner, Frances Quinn, Masterchef the Professionals finalist, Adam Handling, food buyers from Harrods, Selfridges, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, and chefs including James Golding, Chef Director of The Pig hotel group, tasted their way through the entries. They re-judged and tasted yet again the 3-star winners to finally agree on the 2015 Top 50 Foods, the Golden Fork Trophy winners as well as the 2015 Supreme Champion.

The team of judges had the following comments to make on our ‘West Country Choice Tomahawk Steak’: “A beautiful piece of beef with wonderful fat running through the grain. Good depth of flavour, but also very delicate”. “Very good-looking piece of meat, with a good amount of fat. The meat is succulent and juicy, the fat is creamy. The flavour is light and very pleasant, really delicate and exciting”.

The final announcement of the winner of Great Taste Supreme Champion 2015, sponsored by Harrods, and the regional Golden Fork Awards will be made in London on Monday the 7th of September.

Media

Why is Grass Fed Irish Food Unique?

Tuesday, 04 August 2015 09:57

by Dr. Vanessa Woods, Agri Aware

With a greater focus on healthy eating and food provenance for a growing world population, to reach nine billion people by 2050, food awareness and education, right back to the farm, is of increasing interest and importance to the consumer.

We hear a lot about the benefits of grass-fed produce in Ireland. We also hear about how the food that comes from grass-fed animals has a unique flavour, colour and taste and why it allows Irish produce to be in huge demand across the globe. However, does the consumer really know what it is about grass-fed produce that is so special and unique?

Some 80% of Ireland is covered in grass and our cattle graze this grass for up to 300 days each year. It is only during the colder winter period, when the grass stops growing, that our animals are housed. When they are housed, the main feed offered is grass silage, with some meal. As such, the food that comes from Irish cattle and sheep is said to be predominantly produced from grass.

In some countries, animals can spend a lot of their time in intensive feedlots. In Ireland, our animals graze the lush green pastures for the majority of their life. This is their natural environment where they express their natural behaviour, which is of paramount importance to both farmers who produce the food and consumers who eat it. This is what makes grass-fed Irish food so unique.

Indeed, the important attributes of grass-fed produce do not stop there, because grass is naturally rich in a number of healthy nutrients. We all know that omega-3 fatty acids are healthy and we often purchase supplements or food that is fortified with omega-3 for this reason, often at a significant premium, but what about omega-3 fatty acids and CLA-Conjugated Linoleic Acid, from grass-fed produce? Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA, is known as an essential fatty acid that is found in ruminant (beef, cow and sheep) products, such as meat and milk. It is referred to as ‘essential’, because we have to get these fatty acids from our food, as our bodies cannot manufacture them.

If we compare grass-fed meat for example, to grain-fed meat, research shows that grass-fed meat has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA. Meat contains a mixture of fatty acids in the fat, and many of these are considered healthy fats. As such, eating grass-fed produce can make a contribution to our requirement for these ‘essential’ fatty acids.

Furthermore, grass-fed produce is also rich in beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A. Vitamin A is required for growth and development in humans, the maintenance of our immune system and good vision. Grass-fed meat and butter has a unique colour, flavour and appearance due to beta-carotene coming from the grass. This is why Irish butter, such as the famous Kerrygold, has a yellow colour, compared to a more white coloured butter that you might find in other countries, where the cows are not pasture-fed.

Another important nutrient that we all need in our diet is Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant. Research has shown that grass-fed animals have higher levels of Vitamin E compared to grain-fed animals.

The next time you eat Irish butter, admire the colour and flavour and know why it has this unique colour and taste. When you next eat grass-fed Irish meat or dairy, you will know why we are so fortunate to have this unique product on our doorstep, because our grass-fed produce is natural and special and this is why it is in demand all over the world.

Professor Paddy Wall, Professor of Public Health in UCD, stresses that our health is our most valuable asset. He says “a healthy diet is essential, yet some people can sometimes give little thought to what they eat. An investment in your health is an investment in your future. We regularly talk about the ‘green image of Ireland’, but it is not an image, it is a reality that we have ‘forty shades of green’ and our grass produced meat and dairy products are special”.

 

Meat for Muscle and Healthy Ageing

Tuesday, 04 August 2015 09:55

by Dr. Vanessa Woods, Agri Aware

In Ireland, people are living longer and with the demise of the Celtic Tiger, many people are having to work past pensionable age. Whether you hope to relax and enjoy the later chapters of your life, or continue working, you need to be fit and healthy.  Our health is our most valuable asset and investing in it is the best investment we can make.  Food is the fuel for our bodies and a good diet and some exercise are essential for good health.

As we get older, we lose muscle mass and we are not as robust, explaining how we may notice that our parents become smaller as they age. This muscle loss is a natural phenomenon known as Sarcopenia and it is thought to affect 30% of individuals over 60 years old and more than 50% of those over 80 years old. It contributes to frailty and loss of independence, and increases the risk of falls and fractures, thereby threatening healthy ageing.

Sarcopenia is more commonly seen in people who do not perform regular exercise and in those who do not consume adequate levels of high quality protein in their diet. The balance between the rate of muscle protein synthesis (growth) and muscle protein breakdown (loss) in our body determines whether we gain, maintain, or lose muscle in response to many factors such as exercise, nutrition and disease. Sarcopenia is caused by a combination of factors, such as a lower rate of protein synthesis in older muscle, a reduced growth response to nutrients such as protein, and/or increased muscle breakdown due to disease or inactivity. If we could maintain muscle mass, we could slow down the ageing process and a healthy diet will achieve this.  One of the secrets to holding onto our physical fitness is to include high quality protein in our diet and take a modest amount of exercise.

Many studies have shown that older people can increase their muscle mass with regular physical activity, especially resistance-based strength exercise. Numerous studies have also shown the ability of high quality protein to stimulate muscle growth and to reduce muscle loss in ageing people. Furthermore, consuming 20-30g protein during each meal can also maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis in younger people and some studies show that an additional 20% may be required to deliver this effect in older people. Recent studies highlight the importance of ingesting a sufficient amount of protein with every meal, as opposed to the common pattern in the Western diet, where little protein is eaten at breakfast and lunch and a lot is eaten at dinner. Combined with exercise, an even distribution of 20-30g protein at each meal is thought to be optimal for developing or maintaining muscle and contributing to healthy ageing. In total, the average middle-aged adult should be aiming for 80-100g protein per day.

Beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products are all quality protein sources that contain essential amino acids (building blocks for protein), that the body needs to build and repair muscle and thus manage or delay the onset of Sarcopenia.

Professor Paddy Wall, Associate Professor of Public Health, School of Public Health, UCD, says “The old adages ‘Your health is your wealth’ and ‘You are what you eat’ are still as true as ever. Many people only start to pay attention to diet and exercise after they have a health scare, but prevention is far better than cure. For many of us, if we pay attention to diet and exercise, chronological age will become irrelevant and 60 will be the new 30 and 90 the new 60!”

Dawn Meats has received approval from the EU Competition Commission for its acquisition of a 49% stake in Elivia, a €1 billion turnover business and the No. 2 beef and veal processor in France.

The agreement with Elivia’s owners (French cooperative Terrena), also includes an option for Dawn Meats to increase its stake in Elivia to 70% by 2019. 

Elivia is a major player in agrifood in France; it is located in Western France, one of the leading farming regions of Europe, comprising the Loire region, Poitou-Charentes and Brittany.  Elivia employs 2,600 staff and has annual revenues of over €1bn.

The deal will see sharing of best practice to deliver growth based on quality, efficiency and the joint development of new opportunities.

Commenting, Niall Browne, CEO of Dawn Meats said:
“In a consolidating industry we believe that this deal brings considerable scale and knowledge sharing benefits to both parties.  Our aim is to leverage our leadership position in traceability and sustainability so that we are at the vanguard of meat marketing internationally. Our scale, premium positioning and routes to market will benefit our customers and thousands of farmer suppliers in Ireland, the UK and now, via Elivia, in France.” 

Elivia will continue to be managed by its current chief executive Guy Wermeister.

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