24th January 2020

New Look QMS Cattle & Sheep Assurance Standards Launched

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has revamped its cattle & sheep assurance standards, making them more user friendly, with simple easy to read content that clearly explains each standard and its importance.

Around 10,000 livestock farmers who are members of Quality Meat Scotland’s cattle & sheep quality assurance scheme will shortly receive this year’s updated standards document, published today (24 January 2020).

Over 90% of Scotland’s breeding cattle population, around 80% of breeding sheep and almost 100% of significant pig farming businesses are members of QMS farm assurance schemes.

The standards behind the six QMS quality assurance schemes – which also cover pigs, feeds, haulage, auction markets and processors - are reviewed regularly and updated annually to ensure continuous improvements are made to keep pace with legislative, technical and other changes. 

“Before any changes are incorporated into these standards they are thoroughly discussed and agreed by the committees which oversee the annual review process. Membership of the cattle and sheep standards committee includes representatives from relevant areas of the industry including farming, processing and auction markets as well as the Scottish SPCA,” said Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of Quality Meat Scotland.

This broad range of knowledge and expertise 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.

“Although our quality assurance standards are predominantly used by scheme members and farm assessors, they are also publicly available to a wider audience including consumers and retailers. With reassurance about the way animals are looked after becoming ever more important to consumers, confidence in these standards is essential to underpin the integrity of our premium Scotch brands,” added Mr Clarke.

The majority of the standards in the new document were already built into the assessment process of the previous standards. The key changes relate to a previous recommendation that farms receive an annual veterinary visit and that the annual review of the Animal Health Plan health and performance records is carried out in conjunction with a vet. This is now an official requirement.

After a successful pilot roll-out of spot checks, a further programme of planned spot checks is included as part of an on-going focus on farms which have, on several occasions, failed to meet full compliance with key risk standards. The existing process which sees spot checks undertaken where concerns are raised about a farm which is in the scheme, will also continue.

“The Scots were the first in the world to introduce quality assurance schemes to underpin our standards of red meat production and we are very proud of what the industry has achieved.  Spot checks allow us to manage reputational risk and provide assurance to consumers as well as underpinning the ongoing credibility of our brands and assurance schemes,” said Mr Clarke.

Members will receive a copy of the updated standards by post in the coming days. The standards are also available to view online by visiting the QMS website.


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