A record percentage of Northern Irish beef is now farm assured, despite a drop in membership levels.

Last year 92.4% of clean beef, slaughtered domestically, was registered with the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme – up from the previous high of 91% in 2004, according to reports from the Livestock and Meat Commission. The highest individual category was for steers, 94% of which were farm assured, with cull cows and bulls reaching an acceptable level of 70%.

The increase was despite a 3% fall in scheme membership, said FQAS manager Seamus McMenamin. “The fall in membership reflects the general contraction within the industry, but as the proportion of FQAS beef has increased it is perhaps indicative that some of those leaving the industry were not in FQAS.

“The big encouragement in the last year has been the 13% increase in new applications to join the scheme, and this augurs well for the future. No doubt the £30 a head differential between FQAS and non-FQAS beef being implemented at the meat plants is a great encouragement for this.”

The proportion of farms with non-compliances increased from 17% to 27%, but those requiring re-inspection fell by 39%, indicating that the failures were of a minor nature.