Irish food chiefs want to adopt a Beef from the British Isles label to help them sell more meat to UK supermarkets.

The initiative has been proposed by Irish food body Bord Bia to resolve the issue of how to sell beef from cattle that has been reared in the Republic but finished and slaughtered in the UK.

Beef from such animals can neither be sold under an Irish label nor carry the Red Tractor quality mark used to identify British produce. As a result, most of it ends up in the catering trade at well below premium prices, and it is hoped that selling such meat in UK supermarkets would bring better returns for Irish producers.

Bord Bia believes using the label Beef from the British Isles would give the meat a marketing edge and improve its access to the supermarket trade.

Talks on the proposed label are already understood to have been held with some UK supermarket groups, but there had been a mix of positive and negative feedback to the idea, sources said. Irish officials are keen to stress that no deals have been agreed and that the initiative is still at an early stage.

The label would be a significant boost for the live trade, which Irish farmers see as providing essential competition to processors. The increasing number of animals being exported so far this year almost 8,000 live animals have been exported to Britain, up 5,000 on last year reflects farmers' unhappiness with the prices currently being paid by processors.

However, the plan was criticised as being confusing by National Beef Association director Kim-Marie Haywood.

"It's another step towards complete control of the market over here," she said. "By using a joined-up label it completely distorts the market value of the beef produced in both countries. It could also be challenged by consumers who want to know whether they're buying Scottish, English, Welsh, Northern Irish or Irish beef."