UK - The value to Scottish livestock producers of having strong brands and robust quality assurance schemes is without question, according to Uel Morton, Quality Meat Scotland Chief Executive.
Speaking to around 150 farmers at McIntosh Donald’s Producer Club Open Evening, Mr Morton said maintaining the integrity of the Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb labels was crucial to ensuring the long-term profitability of the Scottish red meat industry.
“The Scottish red meat industry is committed to delivering a top quality product but one of the biggest challenges the wider food industry faces is food fraud.
“As an industry we were in a strong position when the horsemeat scandal broke as we had full traceability and quality assurance standards in place to guarantee the integrity of our labels. This meant that consumers could trust our brands.”
Mr Morton said that feedback from processors indicated that the audits of the way they operate undertaken by retailers had become even more rigorous in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
Recent independent market research undertaken for QMS reveals that shoppers expect the logos, with their quality assurance, to guarantee they can trust the meat they buy. They also expect it to be from a known source, of better eating quality, safer to eat and from animals which have better living conditions.
“Our research shows that consumers also expect Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb to be fully traceable to farm, produced in a traditional way and subject to independent checks on production,” he said.
Mr Morton drew attention to the importance of strong brand differentiation in terms of the price differential between Scotland and other parts of the UK and Ireland.
For the week ending 18th October the variation in the average deadweight price for an R4L steer ranged from 378p/kg in Scotland to 345p/kg in the south of England and 282p/kg in the Republic of Ireland.
“As an industry, we are very proud of the fact that Scotland was a global pioneer of livestock quality assurance but it is vital that we are not complacent and remain on the front foot with regards to the standards required by our schemes,” said Mr Morton.
The standards are reviewed regularly and updated annually to ensure continuous improvements are made to keep pace with technical and other changes.
Mr Morton added: “The committees which oversee our standards contain processor, farmer and other relevant representatives.
“This helps to ensure any changes necessary to meet consumer and retailer expectations, and to keep pace with technology and other changes in our industry, are also practical and workable at grassroots level.”