Lockhead has been reported as saying he would make it an “early priority to investigate the feasibility of an independent meat inspection body for Scotland, following our manifesto pledge”.
Talking at the Scottish NBA’s Beef Event at Garmouth, Morayshire yesterday, he added: “With such pressures on margins within the supply chain, we have a responsibility to investigate all opportunities to make the inspection system more efficient to reduce the cost to farmers and processors.
“This will further contribute to our overall aim of reducing the financial burden on the industry.”
The admission comes just a week after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it would plough ahead with plans to introduce full cost recovery for meat inspection charging. The move, which has been met by widespread criticism in the meat sector, will be introduced in 2012.
The NFU said it believed the proposals would impact heavily on the competitiveness and sustainability of the red and white meat sectors, while the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) accused the FSA of merely “tinkering round the edges”.
One major criticism is that the FSA acts as a monopoly provider and it has faced calls for other agencies to handle inspection.
However last week, Lord Rooker, chair of the organisation, hinted the FSA could be looking at the possibility of opening up its inspection regime.