Ireland has developed a Grass-Fed Standard. Anne Hardie reports on the ramifications for New Zealand.

Grass-based systems provide a tangible difference in dairy products, but consumers need to have trust in those products which is why Ireland developed its Grass-Fed Standard.

Speaking at the Pasture Summit, Ornua chief executive John Jordan said grass-based systems gave both Ireland and New Zealand a real point of difference that was apparent in dairy products. That wasn’t enough without consumers’ trust in products and brands and he said there was an absolute need for transparency.

The Grass-Fed Standard is aimed at providing evidence to back grass-fed claims and Jordan said it is a standard that will stand up to scrutiny.

It provides the industry with a standardised and verifiable mechanism that identifies grass-fed products to consumers through the use of a logo. It involves ongoing surveillance audits that can be unscheduled to ensure the scheme’s integrity.

Ornua processes milk from about 14,000 Irish dairy farmers on small family farms, turning it into cheese and butter that it sells to 110 countries. Its Kerrygold brand is its crown jewel which reflects its grass-fed origins. Jordan says its American competition is white, hard, brittle and hard to spread, whereas Kerrygold butter is yellow with a soft texture and real taste.

“They’re attributes that are real and tangible attributes in the dairy product and they are driven by the fact it is a grass-based system. That is a story we love to tell.”

Ireland is one of the most carbon-efficient places in the world to produce both dairy and beef, though without the heavy industries in the country, he said agriculture accounts for one third of its greenhouse gases. The industry does need to make changes to have a positive impact on the climate, but he said those changes have to be tangible.

The risk, he said, is whether those changes would have an impact on limiting the herd size and would then have an impact on the grass-fed system.