THIS year marks the 30th anniversary of the inception of the Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (NIBL FQAS).
It is a measure which, acc-ording to Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC) Chief Executive Officer Ian Stevenson, leads the way as a ‘gold standard’ guarantee that local beef and lamb are produced to the highest possible standard.
Ian commented: “Northern Ireland was to the fore in developing a beef and lamb quality assurance scheme, one which met the needs of farmers, processers, retailers and consumers in equal measure from the get-go.
“Our Farm Quality Assurance Scheme provides a quality mark that underpins a multiplicity of retail and food service brands in the UK, Europe and beyond.
“The scheme has played a key role in allowing our red meat processors to engage in some of the world’s most lucrative markets for beef and lamb.
“Today, NIBL FQAS works closely with partner schemes in Great Britain to support the Red Tractor scheme and deliver our quality beef and lamb to consumers across the UK. But it should also be remembered that the scheme was also the means by which beef from Northern Ireland was promoted under the Greenfields brand for sale in supermarkets throughout the Benelux region in the early 1990s.”
Today 99 per cent of the prime cattle slaughtered in Northern Ireland are farm quality assured: the figure for cows and bulls is in the region of 91 per cent.
For the 12 month period ending December 31, the scheme’s rolling membership totalled 12,126 farm businesses.
Ian again: “Our Farm Quality Assurance Scheme is truly one of the best examples of supply chain partners working together to enhance the profile and promote the credentials of our world class beef and lamb industry.
“In fact it is one of, if not the longest running, assurance sch-emes of its type in the world.”
Colin Smith, LMC’s Industry Development Manager, pointed to the ever-evolving nature of
He explained: “The scheme has kept pace with the ever-changing market environment for beef and lamb. It has also reflected the need for livestock farmers to maximise the health standards enjoyed by their herds and flocks.
“For example, recent weeks have been marked by the introduction of mandatory training for farmers on the responsible use of antimicrobials. This reflects the growing need for the beef and lamb sectors to play their part in tackling the challenge of antimicrobial resistance head on.
“Another amendment to be introduced in the coming weeks has been the decision to suspend farm quality assurance status of herd owners that retain persistently infected BVD animals in their herds.”
Ian concluded: “NIBL FQAS recognises farmers as being at the very heart of the food supply chain. Critically, it links primary producers with fully accredited farm supply companies, pro-cessors, retailers, caterers and
consumers in a totally transparent manner.
“What’s more, its current structures are sufficiently robust and flexible to allow the red meat sector to respond to whatever production and market-related challenges that may come its way in the future.”