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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.

Dawn Meats in partnership with Costco proudly accepted the award for ‘Best Lamb Product’ at this year’s Meat Management Awards which took place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on Tuesday 30th June 2015. 

As one of the highlights of the meat industry calendar, the annual Meat Management Awards sets a benchmark for recognising excellence throughout the meat industry. Dawn Meats was awarded ‘Best Lamb Product’ for their Slow + Low Moroccan Lamb with an Apricot Glaze as supplied to Costco.

With continuous investment in market and consumer insight and research and development, Dawn Meats are committed to producing consistently high quality meat products through innovation that meet the evolving demands of today’s modern consumer.

Commenting, Kristian Gabrielson, Costco Account Manager, Dawn Meats said: “We are delighted to be awarded with the title ‘Best Lamb Product’. It is an honour and testament to our dedicated team to be recognised for the hard work, passion and commitment they continually place on creating innovative, high-quality, award winning products for our customers”.

Also commenting on the award, Alison Leech, Buyer, Costco said: “Working in partnership with Dawn Meats, we strive to develop high quality and innovative products that show great value to our customers. Winning ‘Best Lamb Product’ is a terrific accolade and one that we are proud to accept”.  

See page 38 & 42 to see our Dawn Meats feature and advert in the Meat Management Awards 2015 Brochure: 

Pictured L-R: Sponsor Matthew Southam of AHDB Beef and Lamb, Alison Leech of Costco, David Angell of Dawn Meats, Gemma Raines of Costco and guest speaker Paul Zerdin.

Image Source: Meat Management Magazine

Today in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, The Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMHC) and Dawn Meats launched a themed garden at Bloom 2015 that will provide a warm and inviting sanctuary for families at difficult times. Designed by Kildare-based garden designer Anthony Ryan, the garden’s theme is “Keeping Families Together.” The garden has been awarded the Gold Medal in the Concept Garden Category.

For over 10 years, the Ronald McDonald House Charity has worked to keep families close to their sick child by providing a “home from home” with home-cooked meals, accommodation and a welcoming living environment on the grounds of Crumlin Children’s Hospital. The ethos of the House is to give families the practical supports to stay together and assist each other when faced with serious or long-term illnesses. Working with one of its key supporters, Dawn Meats, RMHC is now re-creating that inviting and peaceful sanctuary for adults and children at Bloom.  

Commenting on the collaboration, Paul Nolan, Group Development Manager, Dawn Meats said:

“We have worked with the Ronald McDonald House for many years now, and continue to be inspired by the support and hope they give at the most difficult time for any parent; the illness of a child. Anyone who has visited the Ronald McDonald House, will be aware of its very special atmosphere, and through this collaboration at Bloom, we hope to encourage others to show their support and offer assistance to this most worthy cause.”

Commenting Marian Carroll, Volunteer CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charity said

“We opened the first Ronald McDonald House in November 2004, and since then, we have provided accommodation, care and support for over 2,600 families from all over Ireland. Families stay for a few days, a few weeks and in many cases for many months. We keep families together, and try to maintain as much of a sense of normalcy for them as is possible in such difficult times. I thank Anthony Ryan for his outstanding work on our garden, and I hope our presence here serves to make even more families aware of the support that we can provide.”

Pupils of Patna Primary School, Cumnock, East Ayrshire are reaping the benefits of having a good start to the day thanks to the generosity of Dawn Meats and Greggs Bakers.

Between them, they are sponsoring the school’s free breakfast club which caters for up to 50 pupils every morning, with start-up funds from Dawn Meats enabling the purchase of utensils, toaster, fridge, freezer and games for social time, while Greggs Bakers is supplying all bread products.

Niall Brennan of Dawn Meats said: “Family is very important to our company. We are a family business, working with thousands of family farms across the UK and Ireland – children are at the heart of those families. Greggs Breakfast Club gives children a great start to their school day and a better chance of successful early learning and we are delighted to support it”.

Head teacher at Patna PS, Sharon Yorston, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding. This will enhance the social and educational learning of our children”.

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