Historically, the greatest demand for Quality Assured lamb has been from the Irish retail market. However, this is fast changing, with customers in some of our most important export markets increasingly looking for Irish lamb sourced from accredited farms.

Seamus McMenamin, sheep sector manager at Bord Bia explains:

The numbers of beef farmers participating in the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) has grown steadily in recent years, and now includes more than 52,000 members, accounting for over 90% of finished cattle annually.

In contrast, there are just over 12,000 Quality Assured sheep farmers who produce 55-60% of the lambs/hoggets handled by the major lamb processors. Clearly, there is significant room to increase the proportion of lamb produced under the accreditation of the SBLAS scheme.

Addressing this deficit will help to enhance the marketability of Irish sheepmeat, highlight our sustainability credentials and boost our global reputation.

This need is called out in the draft Agri-Food Strategy 2030, which specifically notes the importance of increased farmer participation in SBLAS in order to pursue a premium position for Irish beef and lamb.

Demand for quality assured meat

Demand from Quality Assured sheepmeat is increasing from both domestic and overseas markets, but it is essential that we have sufficient supply to meet customer demand.

In Ireland, all five major retail chains currently require 100% of their fresh lamb to be Quality Assured.

Some existing customers in key export markets who purchase Quality Mark beef increasingly expect Irish lamb to also carry the Quality Mark.

Furthermore, reduced availability of lamb for export from the UK and the growing complexities involved in trading between the UK and the EU has created opportunities for Irish lamb to grow market share.

It is worth noting however, that in some cases customers would have been sourcing quality assured lamb from UK suppliers and will be looking for equivalence from alternative suppliers.

Consumer demand for sustainably produced food continues to grow and retailers and foodservice operators are responding to this need. Being able to prove that Irish lamb is sustainable gives the Irish sheep sector a competitive advantage in export markets.

The Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme

Through the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme, we can provide proof to customers that Irish sheepmeat is produced sustainably on farms that are certified members of an accredited sustainable assurance scheme.

The recently launched lamb carbon footprint model will assess the carbon footprint of Quality Assured sheep farms, and provide further sustainability metrics to enhance the reputation of the sector. Increased sheep farmer participation in SBLAS will add to the robustness of these metrics.

In addition to the marketability, reputation, and sustainability benefits of Quality Assurance, SBLAS has a number on-farm benefits for members:

  • A carbon footprint of your farm;
  • Advice on farm safety;
  • Access to the Bord Bia Helpdesk;
  • Improved record keeping;
  • Preparation for cross-compliance inspections;
  • Quality bonus payment by processors.

How to apply

The Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme is open to all Irish sheep farmers. The average time from application to certification is four to six weeks.

Joining is simple, and can be done over the phone:

1. Call 01 524 0410 to speak to the Bord Bia Helpdesk;

2. The Helpdesk will ask for your flock/herd number and assign you an auditor;

3. A member pack will be sent to you;

Member pack contains:

  • The SBLAS Standard, i.e. the requirements of SBLAS;
  • A Farm Usage Book to document animal remedies records, feed etc;
  • An audit checklist to help you prepare;
  • Information on the closeout process;
  • Member pack also available online at farm.bordbia.ie

4. The auditor will contact you to choose a suitable time and date for your audit. You can choose between an on-farm or a remote audit.

Increasing membership of SBLAS is a challenge the sheep sector must address if we are to secure new customers and markets, to maintain our existing portfolio of customers, and to enhance the reputation of the Irish sheep sector.

For more information on joining, visit Bord Bia.