Quality Assurance and sustainability: Giving an edge to Irish lamb

Ireland’s future trading relationship with Britain is in sharp focus again as we fight to hold on to the hard-won 16% increase in the value of sheepmeat exports to the UK in 2019 (from €55.4 million to €64.5 million).

We must also protect our market share in Europe post Brexit, increase sheepmeat exports to newly-won international markets such as Japan and Canada and progress the access protocol for sheepmeat exports to China and the US.

In addition, we need to defend against any targeting of the Irish market and capitalise on the very strong support among shoppers here for Quality Assured Irish lamb. In such trading circumstances, Irish lamb must separate itself from competitor suppliers who make claims about their own produce and ensure that we attract the best customers in the best markets.

The Bord Bia Quality Mark, underpinned by the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS), gives us an edge in satisfying customer requirements around national and EU regulations; provenance; quality; food safety; animal welfare; animal health; traceability; and sustainability.

As a result, all five Irish retail chains require 100% of their fresh lamb to be Quality Assured. Furthermore, many European retailers are now demanding quality assurance and sustainability standards and SBLAS meet these requirements.

We have the capacity to meet this increased demand for Quality Assured lamb as only 55% of our national sheepmeat throughput is from Quality Assured farms, compared to over 90% for beef and dairy.

The Bord Bia Quality Mark

93% of consumers are aware of the Bord Bia Quality Mark. 73% of consumer are more likely to purchase Quality Mark lamb.

The confidence of major Irish retailers in the Quality Mark is evident from the most recent retail audit conducted by independent auditors which found that 94% of lamb on supermarket shelves was Bord Bia Quality Assured.

Improvements to SBLAS

The success of the Quality Mark and SBLAS is down to farmers and Bord Bia is continually working with farm organisations and producer groups to find new ways to make it more user-friendly without diminishing the credibility and integrity of the scheme.

Measures to make the audit process more user-friendly include:

The close-out period

If a farm is found to fall short of the required standard during the audit, the farmer is given 30 days to resolve the issue or issues identified.

If a more serious issue, known as a critical non-compliance, is identified, farmers will have 48 hours to correct it. Critical non-compliances are rare. Since introducing the close-out model in 2017, the numbers of farmers found non-eligible after the audit has greatly reduced.

The Bord Bia Helpdesk

Open Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 8:00pm, the Bord Bia Helpdesk is available to prepare farmers for their audit, to assist them in completing the sustainability survey, and to help resolve any non-compliances found during the close-out period.

The Helpdesk is also available to help farmers through the remote audit process that is currently in place.

Solutions

With your support for SBLAS, we can continue to target premium customers for Irish sheepmeat, to the benefit of present and future generations of Irish sheep farmers.

To join today, call the Bord Bia Helpdesk on: 01-524-0410.