29 November 1996

One umbrella for farm assurance?

Quality assurance schemes are gathering speed. But the need for one national scheme was highlighted in FWs

Smithfield survey. Emma Penny reports

THE meat industry must get closer to consumers and show a higher standard of assurance if it is to regain buyer confidence.

So warned NFU economist Ian Gardiner at the fw Farmer Forum Beef: Managing our way out of the crisis.

"There is a need to re-establish confidence with consumers here and abroad. Farm assurance will mean more work, and more paperwork initially, but it will help producers avoid mistakes," he said.

According to Mr Gardiner, a common quality assurance system across the entire meat industry would be a huge advantage in regaining and maintaining market share.

Thats currently under discussion, according to MLC beef strategy manager Chris Brown. "The MLC has kick-started talks about setting up a meat quality assurance scheme which will involve all sectors of the industry."

The National Federation of Meat Wholesalers, UKASTA, major retailers and the National Farmers Unions are currently involved in discussions, said Dr Brown.

"We are aiming to restore consumer confidence through product and process assurance, ensuring the integrity of meat products."

Essential features of any new scheme must be full traceability of livestock and meat, with animal welfare, food safety and environmental impact forming the common core of assurance standards, he said. "We also need convincing policing of any scheme to ensure maximum uptake."

Existing assurance schemes are also being reviewed, with FABBL corporate auditing procedures likely to be overhauled within the next couple of months.

MLCs Chris Brown: "The industry must work towards a common set of meat quality assurance standards."

Farm assurance schemes

&#8226 Need for one national scheme

&#8226 Must be well policed

&#8226 Instantly recognisable logo

&#8226 Better promotion in consumer press and supermarkets