Quality Meat Scotland this week announced a new licensing scheme for secondary processors – meat wholesalers and manufacturers – to strengthen the checks already in place to protect the Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb brands.
QMS insisted that the new scheme aimed to nurture a 'positive relationship' with secondary processors, ensuring that they are aware of its requirements and why they are so important. In return, QMS will be able to help with marketing their products under the Scotch brand.
"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 QMS chairman Jim McLaren.
"The licensing scheme is a constructive extension to the steps already in place to ensure the quality and traceability of the industry's brands, trusted around the world for quality and taste."
The scheme makes it mandatory for anyone who uses the Scotch Beef and Lamb brands to be licensed by QMS. The licensing process, which involves a small fee for the companies involved, will see traceability and labelling audits being carried out on all companies using the Scotch Beef and Lamb brands.
"Over the past two decades Scottish farmers and others involved in the production chain behind Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb have made a major physical and financial commitment to embrace quality assurance," added Mr McLaren.
"At a time when the industry is under particular scrutiny, the benefits of having adopted a robust system, which does not cut corners, become very clear. Although we already use stringent audits and diagnostic technology to verify provenance in manufacturing and wholesale, our new licensing scheme will take this even further."
Rural Affairs CabSec Richard Lochhead said: "I warmly welcome this proactive and speedy development by QMS which will 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."
NFU Scotland president, Nigel Miller said: "Robust traceability, high welfare and quality production standards are the bedrock of Scottish livestock systems. Every step of the primary chain of production is defined and audited by QMS as part of the Scotch brand.
"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."
n Tesco has promised to source more of its meat from the UK – and improve its in-house DNA testing in the wake of the horse meat scandal.
Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke told farmers at the National Farmers' Union conference on Wednesday (February 27) that it will make a commitment to buy British wherever it is reasonable to do so.
The grocery giant specifically pledged that by July, all of Tesco's fresh chicken will come from British farms, followed by all frozen and ready meals.