Posts Tagged ‘Bord Bia’

Elaine over at The New Farmerette wrote an excellent post during the week about her experience of registering their sheep/lambs for the Bord Bia Quality Mark.

It was such a timely post, as we have been having a bad time with crazy bureaucracy this past week.

So I thought I’d share our experience thus far.  It truly is a comedy of sorts!  I hope you have the patience to read all the way through…

Back in early 2010 Alfie started questioning why was there no ‘mark’ for free-range pork?  There is for chicken, but not for pork.  There are ‘marks’ for organic pork, but nothing for free-range.  We thought it would be a good accolade for Oldfarm Pork.

So the quest began.  He approached Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board).  They refused to talk to him as an individual farmer.  There had to be an ‘association’.    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but perhaps we should have seen the flashing lights at this point!

Anyway, Alfie continued on.  He spoke to other free-range pig breeders and the Irish Free Range Association was formed – with about 20 people.  Alfie was nominated as the Chairperson.  And thus the long journey began, as Bord Bia would now talk to a free-range producer.

For 2 years every other month, Alfie travelled to Dublin to sit on the pig meat board. I might point out that the board is mainly made up of industry representatives who were not too keen on having the small producer represented.

Alfie’s hope had been that if they approved a ‘free-range’ label it would include ‘non gmo’ but there was absolutely NO WAY this was going to be allowed.  (Says a lot about our food??? board)

At the end of the 2 years, a framework was agreed as to what the definition of ‘free-range’ was.

Hallelujah I hear you cry!


As Alfie had worked so hard on this, we thought we ought to be among the first to go through the whole process.  And then the fun began!!!

In March we had a visit from the Bord Bia representative, a very nice man.  He had never ever seen pigs in the outdoors!  He told us we shouldn’t be allowing the hens to mix with the pigs????? Bird flu I think was the reason!  And the best bit…. we shouldn’t have the wild birds landing in the fields!  Righty oh, how am I to stop that???

He was rather shocked we didn’t have the vet’s number pasted on sheds everywhere… and was incredulous that we hadn’t had the vet in over 3 years!

When he left we were left with a list of procedures to put in place.

  • A pig health plan
  • A farm safety statement
  • Water testing
  • DNA testing
  • Some signs to put up about the place

Nothing too onerous we thought.

We started with the water test.  Alfie called the Environment Section of the County Council to arrange test.  It cannot be done on line, you have to call in!  The cost is €40.  So we drove to Nenagh (a 50 mile round trip).  Thankfully, I stayed in the car!!!!  Alfie went into office….. you cannot pay for the water test with cash!  you cannot pay for water test with card!  you have to use cheque or postal order!!!  See why I was glad I stayed in the car????

So a fuming pig farmer returned to car, we had to drive to post office, queue there and pay €2.90 to get a €40 postal order.  Then drive back to County Council Office.

Test was carried out about 2 weeks later, and there were some minor impurities found in it, so it was suggested we re-test from a different tap.  Another €40.00.  The technician came back, did the second test and graciously accepted €40 CASH!!!

Water passed the test.

The next stage was the DNA test.  The DNA test is arranged via the IFA.  This time it was an expenditure of €80 in order to get the DNA tag and gun.  Alfie risked life and limb sticking this ear tag into Polonius Hogworth on 15th May and sent it away.  Up to this week we had not had a reply, so Alfie called them.

The sample has still not been examined!  Could we have a receipt at least to say we’ve sent you the DNA sample?  You should see what they sent us?  A blank sheet of paper – not headed paper – it could have come from anywhere!  I could have typed it up myself.

Oh, and by the way, they were shocked to hear we wanted a copy of the results of the DNA test!  They don’t usually issue that? WTF did we pay the €80 for?  I could have sent them a photo of Polonius to prove he is a pig… a big one, almost as big as a small horse, but he’s all pig.

Polonius Hogworth I

Polonius Hogworth I

If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re thinking it can’t get any worse???  You’re wrong?


Last week Alfie rang Bord Bia to get a list of ‘Quality Approved’ butchers and abattoirs.  Well boys and girls….. the only place we can send our pigs to is to one of the major processors!  The giants like Rossderra and Kepak.

There are no small artisan butchers or abattoirs approved.  I would suspect the annual fee of €2,200 would certainly play a part in this.

We are not willing to send our pigs to the big boys…. we may not get our own pig back.

So where do we go from here?

Alfie wants to continue to see a project he began over 2 years ago through to an end.

Personally, I would like to walk away. We have so far wasted so much time, effort and money on this.  Anyone else have any thoughts?


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When I received my invitation in mid-August to The Food Summer School being hosted by the Taste Council and Bord Bia – I, of course, was delighted, and presumed it was because we produce free-range pork!  I was wrong, which I only discovered on arrival at The Brooklodge Hotel on Tuesday last!  It was because I write this blog!

A nice compliment! 🙂

The drive to Wicklow from here took about 2 hours across all sorts of by ways and highways.  It does test my geographical knowledge when passing through villages… trying to remember school geography and which county I am in!  Bless Mrs. Sat Nav but she can be a nuisance at times!  A couple of noteworthy events on the drive –

I never knew there was a village in Ireland called Arles – which of course, triggered thoughts of Vincent Van Gogh!  However, local knowledge tells me that in Ireland it is pronounced Aar Less!

The colours of the Wicklow mountains were amazing – all purples and pinks.  I had big plans to stop on the way home to take photos, but of course, it was too late when I was leaving to do that!  Sorry!

There was a big turnout for the Summer School (I think I read somewhere that there were 180 people).  I would have guessed more!

The day was divided into three individual workshops, each having a chair and panel discussing the relevant topic:

  1. Realising the Potential of the Traditional Irish Farm
  2. The Artisan and the Education System
  3. The Artisan and Brand Ireland

Without going into the total detail, there were some highlights and lowlights for me.

The Highs

It was lovely to meet some old friends and make new friends!  I had a lovely catch up over lunch with Aoife of The Daily Spud… while we enjoyed a giggle about food photography!

pulled pork bap

Other bloggers who were there – Wendy of My Chef at Home, Keith of Bia Beag, Ollie of Oliver Moore’s Blogspot.  There were so many other people that I got to meet and chat with too, but it would be completely boring if I was to list them all!  I always find at events like this, it is so difficult to chat to everyone.  I’d rather just spend some good time with a few people, rather than race about having only half conversations!  So apologies to those I didn’t get to chat with!

Enjoying a moment at the Food Summer SchoolWendy White Kavanagh, My Chef at Home, Helen Gee, G’s Gourmet Jams and Oonagh O’Mahony, Irish Farmers Monthly enjoying a moment.

Attendees at summer school

The discussions at the workshops were enjoyable…. some interesting facts and truths were learned.

  • So many farms are operating at a loss, and are only surviving because of subsidies!
  • I thought it was wonderful that Ruth Hegarty from Eurotoques openly stated that their members need to get to grips with ‘children’s menus’ and agreed they were a disgrace!
  • There were two quotes of the day.  Darina Allen’s “the future is our past, if we just recognised it!” and from David at Glebe Brethan…”you can call me what you like, but basically I am a farmer who is just carrying on doing what my grandparents before me did!”

The Lows

  • There seemed to have been mainly cheese and fish producers in attendance!  Where were the rest of the producers?
  • Sheila from Sligo bravely brought up the subject of allowing GMO’s into the country – and I felt the panel completely skirted around giving an answer!
  • It would have been good if there had been a little bit more open discussion involving the ‘audience’.

And the major low on a personal level, was that I wasn’t able to stay on for the dinner – from the photos I’ve seen it looked amazing!

a selection of wicklow produce

I do hope this becomes an annual event, it is a good way to share knowledge.

Here’s a link to the video link.

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The wonders of the internet never cease to amaze!

Since starting to write this blog I have ‘met’ so many people, never face to face, but next week I am about to!

I missed the Irish Food Blogger Event held last month at Bord Bia, but so did some others, and now thanks to Caroline at Bibliocook: All About Food, we are going to meet up here next week.  On Wednesday, next, 16th June to be exact, some of the wonderful and diverse community of Irish Food Bloggers are going to come and visit!

So far those coming are:

Caroline at Bibliocook: All About Food

Theresa from The Green Apron

Kristin from Dinner du Jour

Gillian from Some Say Cocoa

Wendy from My Chef at Home

Claire from An American in Ireland

John from The Devil’s Menu

Anyone else like to come along?  Here are the details..

What: Food Bloggers Country Outing

When: 2 pm on Wednesday, 16th June

Where:   Here at Oldfarm in Redwood, Co. Tipperary (I will give everyone exact directions).  But generally speaking we are an hour from Limerick and Galway.  Dublin is just 2 hours and Cork can be done in 2 hours too!  We are just off the main Birr – Portumna Road – but very importantly still in Co. Tipperary!

If you’d like to join us for a cup of tea and chat, let me know.  Just leave a comment below…. we look forward to meeting new people.

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