Is Ireland’s Grass-Fed Family Farm Headed Towards Industrialisation?

 Maybe Not, But There Are Other Problems

In an article in the Irish Times, Breda O’Brien discusses some of the factors driving low quality fast food products, in the context of the controversy of finding horsemeat in burgers.  Ms. O’Brien worries that we are killing off the family farm and its grass-fed system and suggests that there is an “inexorable trend towards industrialised farming,” implying that such a development would undermine marketing Irish food products as “green food.”

In the Podcast section of this issue (Feb 2013) of irish environment, we have published a video interview with Michael Barry, Director of the Irish Dairy Industries Association (IDEA).   The discussion with Michael focuses on the nature of the dairy farming business in Ireland, how it operates now, and what implications Harvest 2020 has for the business and the environment. 

You’ll see and hear Michael explain why corporate or industrialised farming is unlikely in Ireland — in part because farming in Ireland always has been and likely always will be a family operation on family-owned land.  Perhaps that’s the good news.

While the “grass-fed” family farm likely will survive, cows will still emit large quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG).  And with Harvest 2020 projecting a 50% increase in dairy production by 2020, more cows will generate more methane.  Michael discusses the reality of this situation and ways that Irish agriculture might be able to minimize the impacts from the increased GHG emissions, especially in light of the EU requirement that Ireland reduce its GHG emissions by 20% by 2020.


Breda O’Brien, “Cheap food a tasty delusion hiding high costs and lack of sustainability,” The Irish Times (19 Jan 2013),


Editor Update, 04 Feb 2013:  See Tweet on @irishenviro:   50% older Irish farmers have no one to carry on family farm via@IrishTimes









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