Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, has launched a grass-fed standard, the world's first on a national scale, that allows it to track and verify the percentage of grass consumed in the diet of Irish dairy herds.
Irish dairy processors will now be able to provide proof that the milk used in products and ingredients has come from grass-fed cows.
The Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard sets out the rules that must be adhered to for milk from individual farms, and milk pooled for primary processing to be classified as grass-fed. The minimum acceptable figure for an individual herd to qualify as grass-fed is 90% on a fresh weight basis.
The Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard has been developed by Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, at its Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre in Ireland. It will use data collected during the government-approved Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) on-farm audits to determine it meets grass-fed rules.
Mary Morrissey, senior dairy manager at Bord Bia, said: "Dairy from Ireland has always been rooted in a grass-based production system. Our lush green fields, fresh clean air and plentiful rain has created the perfect environment for dairy farming, which converts grass into nutrient-rich, premium quality dairy products and ingredients.
"This initiative will allow producers using Irish dairy to differentiate their product to buyers across the foodservice and retail markets, and appeal to consumers who are increasingly seeking granular detail on the narrative and provenance of the products they buy."
The Grass Fed Dairy Standard has been recognised by Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) and Irish dairy processors are working to put in place the systems to have dairy products verified this year and into 2021.
In Ireland, dairy cows spend on average 240 full days a year out on pasture. It is expected that 99% of Irish dairy farms will meet the grass-fed threshold due to the nature of Irish production systems.