Bord Bia launches new Quality Assurance Scheme

Bord Bia launched a new Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) this morning.

The SBLAS sets out the agreed standards for the production and certification of Irish beef and lamb.

The new scheme was designed in collaboration with the sector stakeholders, to meet the demands of global food buyers for verifiable proof of Ireland’s sustainability claims.

The scheme is accredited to the International Standard for Product Certification (ISO 17065) by the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB), which approved the scheme in recent days.

A Technical Advisory Committee has worked on the scheme over the past 18 months, according to Bord Bia’s CEO Tara McCarthy.

“The Irish food sector has proven yet again that its collaborative approach to meeting new challenges can deliver a scheme that is the envy of our competitors.

The commitment of Irish beef and lamb farmers to meeting the standards of the new SBLAS will ensure its success.

“In turn, the introduction of a close-out period and a helpdesk facility will make the scheme more user-friendly, while audit feedback will assist in delivering lower production costs at farm level.

“By incorporating sustainability into the new scheme we have simplified our message to international customers, giving us an edge on our competitors with a single, independently-certified standard that covers the quality and sustainability of our beef and lamb.

“This scheme will be welcomed by food buyers who are seeking to, or are already, responding to the demands of their consumers at retail and food-service levels for sustainably-produced quality food,” McCarthy said.

Highlights of the scheme

The SBLAS will be introduced in the coming weeks and it will replace the existing beef and lamb quality assurance audits on a phased basis over the next 18 months.

Sustainability

The environmental, social and economic principles of sustainability are apparently embedded in the requirements of the new scheme, which also draws on data provided on-farm in recent years – to establish the carbon footprint of enterprises under the Origin Green programme.

Close-out period

The scheme provides for a close-out period, during which farmers will have a month to rectify non-compliances at audit, without losing their certification status.

Bord Bia helpdesk

In an effort to make the scheme more user-friendly, Bord Bia will introduce a helpdesk facility to assist farmers to prepare for audits and with close-out of non-compliances.

Plant protection products

The new scheme will also incorporate standards for the use of pesticides on-farm, which is already a requirement of the EU Sustainable Use Directive and is aimed at ensuring responsible use of pesticides in the environment.

Benefits for farmers

For farmers, says Bord Bia, sustainable production enables efficient production – as it involves minimising the amount of resources including energy, feed and water used by enterprises; as well as implementing measures that enhance the environmental performance of their enterprises.

According to Bord Bia, these sustainability measures also typically deliver economic benefits through lower costs of production.

Industry benefits

It is hoped the scheme will benefit the marketing of meat in several ways, including demonstrating the commitment of Irish beef and lamb farms to ‘green’ farming practices.

Bord Bia claims that beef and lamb sourced from sustainable farms will gain access to markets that demand certification. This will help to “create a preference for Irish beef and lamb among valuable customers with stated sustainability targets”.

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