An investigation has been launched into reports of the illicit slaughter of cattle and distribution of beef from back-street abattoirs in areas along the Border.
The Department of Agriculture is working with farming organisations to investigate claims that cut-price door-to-door meat sales took place in several towns and villages in the North-east and North-west prior to Christmas.
Department of Agriculture officials are believed to have already led a number of raids in the Donegal area in a bid to detect illegal slaughterhouses.
Further searches are believed to be planned in the wider Border area in the coming days.
Seven years ago a similar crackdown by the department led to several prosecutions, with subsequent heavy fines, for the operation of illicit abattoirs in Cavan and Monaghan.
The Irish Farmers’ Association and other farming groups have joined in condemning the illicit trade in which the beef "pirates" are believed to be engaged.