Hundreds of farmers gathered outside three meat-processing plants today to protest against what they claim are cuts to beef prices.

They allege meat factories have cut the prices they are paying for some beef animals, leaving farmers facing financial loss.

They are also frustrated that factories have been reluctant to take certain types of cattle, even though farmers were told there would be a market for those animals.

Up to 300 farmers protested outside the Kepak plant in Clonee, Co Meath.

Pickets were also mounted at the ABP plant in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and Dawn Meats in Grannagh, Co Waterford.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) described the protests as ill-advised and misguided.

In a statement, it said the beef-processing industry has been returning exceptionally strong prices to producers over the past number of years.

MII said the beef industry had significant engagement with IFA in recent weeks.

It said: "After such constructive engagement, where the industry agreed to work to clear the backlog of out-of-spec young bulls and explained some of difficulties in the European beef market at present, it is disappointing now to see IFA reverting to these disruptive tactics."