Mike Whittemore, head of trade marketing for AHDB Beef & Lamb, underlines the importance of robust quality assurance schemes to the long-term health of the red meat sector.
The meat industry is under constant pressure and subject to intense scrutiny from many different sources and over a range of issues, including animal welfare, the effect of livestock rearing on the environment, the integrity of quality control systems throughout the supply chain, the effects on our health of eating red meat. The list goes on.
While we have to address all those issues, the most critical challenge for the meat industry is that we satisfy consumers on the quality and consistency of their eating experience.
Of the various quality assurance schemes in operation in the meat industry, the AHDB Beef & Lamb Quality Standard Mark (QSM) for beef and lamb is distinguished by the fact that it addresses the key issue of eating quality.
When it was launched back in 2004, the aim of the QSM was not simply to provide combined guarantees of food safety, animal welfare and care for the environment within one of the highest levels of independently inspected quality assurance systems for meat in the United Kingdom. Its unique aspect was to address key consumer concerns about the eating quality of red meat, such as succulence and tenderness, and the industry’s ability to ensure these were met consistently.
The QSM scheme has contributed enormously to raising the bar of quality for beef and lamb over the past 12 years and has been central to much of the work undertaken by AHDB Beef & Lamb. As in all things, however, nothing stands still.
The standards behind the QSM scheme were upgraded in 2012, specifically to address issues of animal age, maturation periods and carcase classification. Such improvements to the scheme are ongoing and a necessary function of ensuring the QSM continues to deliver as consumers become more discerning; our work has to keep pace with their more demanding levels of expectation.
This is especially the case when consumers are increasingly being urged – for all sorts of reasons – to eat less meat. Our challenge will be to ensure they eat better and I believe that initiatives such as the QSM can play a vital role in helping the beef and lamb supply in that regard.
As the QSM Scheme enters its twelfth year, I am proud to say that it currently has over 2,700 members from across the beef and lamb supply chain. Many have been with us since the start and have benefited hugely along the way.
Scheme members are eligible for trade marketing support from us, including dedicated marketing support materials for each sector.
Importantly, the QSM is widely recognised by consumers and has been found to influence their purchasing decisions. A meat and poultry survey found that over a third of respondents said they would be more likely to purchase meat which carries the QSM logo on pack. The survey also found that 50 per cent of consumers know about the scheme and understand what it represents1.
With consumers not only understanding what the QSM stands for but also actively seeking it out, it makes good business sense to display the Mark on pack and on menus. If you are registered with the scheme and sourcing QSM beef and lamb, make sure you are maximising all the QSM branding and marketing materials that are available to you.
If you would like to find out more about the QSM Scheme, and the benefits available to members, visit www.qsmbeefandlamb.co.uk or call the Hotline on 0845 491 8787.
1 Source: YouGov SixthSense Meat and Poultry Survey (13 – 16 February 2014)