IN THE face of continued public concern over the sourcing of meat, Scotland’s red meat promotional body, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), yesterday announced a new scheme as an additional measure to further strengthen the checks already in place to protect the Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb brands.
The new licensing scheme will be for secondary processors, covering those who work with meat products. It has been introduced to add weight to the requirements already in place to guarantee the “authenticity” of Scotch beef and lamb.
“It is important that we remain on the front foot and vigilant for any sensible and workable opportunities to further strengthen the existing measures to protect the brands,” said Jim McLaren, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland.
The new scheme makes it mandatory for anyone who uses the Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb brands to be licensed by QMS. The licensing process will see traceability and labelling audits being carried out on companies using the brands.
The QMS move was welcomed by the Scottish Government, with the rural affairs cabinet secretary, Richard Lochhead, saying it would enable the secondary processing sector to utilise the undoubted benefits of carrying the Scotch label on their meat products.
“This will provide the retail, catering and food service sectors – and ultimately the consumer – with the highest possible level of assurance that their purchases contain premium quality branded beef and lamb,” he said.
The minister added that the QMS initiative tied in well with government plans for an expert group to take forward the Scottish food industry’s work on traceability and provenance.
Last night, NFU Scotland president, Nigel Miller added union support, describing robust traceability, along with high welfare and quality production standards, as the bedrock of Scottish livestock systems.
“Extending the reach of independent quality assurance monitoring through secondary processing takes the Scotch brand another step forward at a time when trust in the supply chain needs reinforcing. It provides an independent benchmark of quality in the Scottish chain that consumers can rely on,” he said.
Currently the Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork brands are underpinned by six quality assurance schemes. These cover areas including farm, feed, haulage, auction markets and primary processors.
The 27 members of the QMS Processor Assurance scheme, most of which are abattoirs, are audited three times a year, with traceability checks accounting for 80 per cent of this auditing process.
In addition, Assured Food Standards undertake annual traceability and labelling checks for Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb in all of their 150 licensee premises in the UK.
These sites are predominantly cutting and packing plants for multiple retail, wholesale or foodservice markets rather than manufacturers of processed products.
Isotope technology is also used during spot checks on meat companies across all sectors to verify the origin of meat.