A new report has highlighted the Scottish red meat industry's assurance scheme, showing that it is leading the way on issues such as animal welfare and traceability.
Recently published by the Food Standards Agency, the Review of uptake of FSA Food Assurance Scheme Guidance by UK Scheme Operators is an overview of development of the UK's various assurance schemes since the previous review in 2002.
The report notes that the red meat assurance scheme in Scotland, managed by industry body Quality Meat Scotland, has developed significantly since 2002. One major area where the scheme is leading the way is in animal welfare.
The Scottish SPCA, operating its livestock animal welfare policy mainly through the assurance scheme, contributed to the report and believes the hands on approach by QMS "has done more for animal welfare in Scotland than any other organisation."
This is borne out by Scottish SPCA figures, which show that while animal welfare prosecutions have gone up, the on-farm prosecutions have dropped from 33.9% in 2002 to 8.5% in 2006.
It also highlighted work between QMS, Scottish Agricultural College and Scottish SPCA in developing a pilot welfare outcomes scheme, which uses a unique method of measuring welfare through animal behaviour, condition and signs of pain, injury or disease.
The report reads: "QMS may well be the first scheme to apply this output related work. This is an important welfare development and once it is fully worked out, Red Tractor Livestock schemes and the Lion Egg scheme should consider whether this pilot scheme approach might be applied to them."
Achieving assurance from birth was another area identified where Scotland is leading the way, and the report recommends that retailers should 'Increase the pressure to have whole life assurance across the remaining livestock schemes'.
Donald Biggar, chairman for QMS, said: "This report underlines the continuing work of Scottish farmers to ensure that beef, lamb and pork produced here have the guarantee of the highest welfare and traceability standards.
"Our high assurance standards are a reflection of everyday modern livestock farming in Scotland, and emphasises the commitment to quality stockmanship that is at the heart of our industry.
"It's testament to the work of the Scottish industry that while many assurance schemes have been launched, the Scottish scheme is still a world leader and is now backed by our Protected Geographical Indication status within the European Union.
"Work such as the pilot welfare outcomes scheme show that instead of resting on our laurels when it comes to animal welfare we are constantly looking at innovative ways at ensuring contented animals and a great product for those that choose Scotch."