From the hoof to the hook: an investigation of beef processor influence on Irish farm policy and politics, 1950-1986
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This thesis traces the development of the Irish beef processing industry through its first thirty-six years from 1950 to 1986. It asks how and why meat processing firms became so influential in Irish farming, documenting the industry’s emergence during the 1950s, up to its ascendency by the 1980s. It details how beef processors benefitted from the patronage of Agriculture Minister, Charles Haughey, to overtake the live exporting of cattle in the 1960s as the country’s premier livestock enterprise; it outlines why the co-operatives were unable to survive in the beef business, even though the sector enjoyed significant EEC supports from 1973; and, finally, it explains how a small coterie of individuals came to dominate red meat processing between 1980 and 1985, and the extent to which this impacted the agricultural sector and the State. The importance of this latter development lies in subsequent government decisions on beef exports to the Middle East which exposed the State to losses of close to Ir£80 million following the near collapse in 1990 and 1991 of Goodman International. This study employs a two-pronged methodology which combines documentary evidence with oral testimonies from contemporary participants. This offers new and original perspectives on events such as the failure of the co-operatives to survive in beef and lamb slaughtering, and how this mirrored the experience of farmer-owned firms in Britain. This study also identifies the extent to which public funding and political patronage have been crucial to the growth of the beef industry since the mid-1960s, and how livestock policy in the 1970s and 1980s was formulated through the prism of beef processor needs, rather than that of the farmer, or the consumer.