24th November 2010

Two decades of Farm Assurance Celebrated

Two decades ago this month the Scottish red meat industry launched its pioneering Farm Assurance Scheme and the occasion was commemorated at today’s Royal Highland Winter Fair.

Scotland was at the world forefront of farm assurance when the scheme was launched in November 1990, aimed at providing consumers with vital assurance about the quality and “wholesomeness” of the red meat they were purchasing.

“Back in the 1990s the scheme was a means to reassure consumers about the meat they were eating - an aim that is still as relevant 20 years on,” said Kathy Peebles, Livestock Development Manager, Quality Meat Scotland.

“Two decades after it was launched the scheme has gone from just over 1100 cattle and sheep members to over 10,200 with over 90% of all livestock – cattle, sheep and pigs - produced in Scotland being produced under the scheme,” Ms Peebles added.

Farm Assurance Standards were set to cover animal husbandry, training, health and welfare. Twenty years later these three areas still form the basis of the scheme but traceability and the environment also feature strongly.

The farm assurance scheme is now divided into two livestock schemes - cattle and sheep - with a further scheme devoted to pigs and four schemes covering all aspects of the animal’s life from the food it eats to how it is transported and where it is sold.

All six schemes are linked by the overall message of reassuring consumers and it is this dedication from the supply chain that formed the basis of the current “Behind The Label” campaign being run by Quality Meat Scotland.

Unlike 20 years ago, the six schemes which make up the Quality Meat Scotland Assurance Scheme now have European accreditation. Another landmark for Scotland was when the Cattle and Sheep scheme became the first in Europe to gain EN45011 accreditation.

Back in the early days it was recognised that the word ‘Scotch’ had considerable credence with consumers. That is still very much the case particularly now Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb are underpinned by the much-coveted European mark of origin - Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

To gain this accolade the scheme had to show points of difference that made these two products from Scotland different from other meats produced in the European Union.

An annual assessment is integral to the operation of the Scheme and the longest serving farm assurance assessor Willie Clark, involved with the Farm Assurance Scheme from very early days, was presented with an award to mark the occasion.

Mr Clark, from Larbert, Stirlingshire, first got involved with the scheme when the farms were assessed by an MLC inspector. He has continued to be an assessor as farm assurance evolved – through FASL and SQBLA - and is still undertaking assessments on a daily basis.

Reflecting on his long service as an assessor, Mr Clark said it had been a privilege to spend so much time travelling through stunning countryside to visit farmers with tremendous stock.

“One area which has really improved over the years is the storage of feed and the changes introduced mean there is now much less wastage. It has been a pleasure to be part of the scheme and to see it evolve and the improvements adopted by the livestock sector over the years,” said Mr Clark.

Donald Biggar, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, said Scottish farmers should be rightly proud of their world-leading assurance schemes which underpin the industry.

“The delivery of our schemes now also involves working closely with the Scottish SPCA and it is very important our schemes are robust and continue to build on the high welfare and other standards our customers expect,” said Mr Biggar.

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