QMS publishes new cattle and sheep standards

Quality Meat Scotland has published the new cattle and sheep standards for the 2007/2008 year. They will come into force at the beginning of next month.

In recognition of the extreme difficulties the industry is facing QMS said it had already delayed the release of the new standards for as long as possible without endangering the Scheme's EN 45011 accreditation.

With the backing of key farming organisations, a new standard has been introduced to place a moratorium on the emerging practice of recycling green and food waste products onto grazing land until key answers can be provided to legitimate questions on both human and animal health.

Introducing the standards for the year beginning 1 November 2007 - 31 October 2008 the new chairman of the Standards Setting Body, Moray farmer and butcher Michael Gibson, said: "It's even more important when times are difficult for us to make sure assurance finds a balance so that it helps the industry meet consumer expectations whilst minimising the burden on farm businesses. This unique suite of six integrated schemes covers farms, hauliers, auction markets, feed suppliers and abattoirs, and provides unrivalled assurance to consumers on the provenance, animal health and welfare, sustainability and safety of Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb.

"The committee was concerned about the numerous grey areas that surround the issue of recycled waste. For example, animals may be at risk from noxious weed toxins like ragwort that may not be destroyed by the composting process. Indeed, it is unclear whether temperatures always rise high enough to neutralise the Foot and Mouth Disease or other viruses that may be present in recycled food waste.

"Another ambition of mine supported by the Committee is to make standards as simple and clearly understood as possible for both the farmer and the assessors. We've made subtle but I believe effective changes to presentation which will make the standards much more user friendly.

He continued: "We are encouraged that government enforcement agencies have started to recognise the value of assurance in reducing risk with the Food Standards Agency concentrating their food hygiene inspections on non-assured farms. This is a principle that we will be actively pursuing with all parts of Scottish Government to ensure that farmers get the maximum benefits from membership. We also intend to progress discussions with the industry to identify ways in which the scheme can be used to the benefit of the sheep sector in particular."

Total membership of the QMS Cattle and Sheep Assurance Scheme at October 2007 is 10,759, representing more than 90% of the industry.

From the annual assessments carried out to date 84% passed their farm assessment first time, recording no 'non compliances'.

The majority of 'non compliances' relate to Health and Disease Plan problems or incomplete medicine records, a legal requirement for the industry.

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