New European rules on the movement of livestock have meant that cows brought into Northern Ireland from the Irish Republic can no longer be labeled British or Irish.
About 1,000 cattle are imported into the North weekly, and are sold under the coveted stamp of British beef.
In the Irish Republic, Irish beef is considered a mark of quality as well.
Beef from these “nomad” cattle can only be sold in Northern Irish stores, as it will not sell well in the UK or Europe.
“Beef labeling now means that product is identifiable by where it has been, where it has been raised and where it has been processed,” Phelim O’Neill of the Livestock and Meat Commission said.
“Of course, in Northern Ireland our product, that has been born, raised and processed here, is eligible for sale under the British meat label — whereas product which has been brought in from the Republic of Ireland are not.”
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The change has left many farmers with imported cattle which have an identity crisis — they are in no-man’s land, being neither Irish nor British.
“Going back for generations cattle have come from the south of Ireland to the North,” farmer Robert Capper said. “They have also been exported to England for many, many years — it is a very important source of cattle.”