Scotland’s geographically protected meat gains attention

Italian-based Bennet group has officially been recognised by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) for its continued support and commitment to Scotch Beef PGI.

The acknowledgment has coincided with the world’s leading food fair, Anuga, which took place this week. Piercarlo Botta, from the Bennet Group, received the importer award from Richard Lochhead, cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment.

With 67 hypermarkets and shopping malls in northern Italy, Bennet group has established itself as leading the Italian fresh food sector in innovation and forward-looking operations, according to QMS.

“What impressed us from the start about Scotch Beef was its quality image and exceptional taste and tenderness – all of which are highly prized by our customers,” explained Botta.

The company started importing Scotch Beef from the country in 2006 as a customer of Scotbeef, based in Bridge of Allan. The two companies have since been working together in an effort to increase sales and to widen the range of products on offer.

“Bennet has always focused on providing top-quality fresh foods and our customers are impressed with the fact that Scotch Beef is produced in wide open spaces with the plentiful green pastures which Italians associate with Scotland,” added Botta.

Bennet is currently importing rump, knuckle, fillet, roast beef and chuck from Scotbeef. It also imports some Scotch Lamb.

QMS chairman Jim McLaren praised Bennet’s loyalty to the traditional meats: “Bennet has an impressive track record, established over almost five decades, of delivering quality produce for discerning customers and we are delighted with the support and dedication they have shown the Scotch Beef brand over the past decade.

“The award we are presenting them with recognises this and we look forward to their continued support as the company grows and strengthens in the Italian marketplace.”

McLaren added that it was encouraging to work with a company like Bennet that understands and appreciates the value of Scotch Beef. He said: “It is also heartening to see the recognition of the Scottish red meat industry’s very positive environmental message – our extensive areas of grassland are ideal for producing top quality beef and lamb.”

Simon Dowling, director at Scotbeef Bridge of Allan, also applauded Bennet’s promotion of Scotch Beef overseas: “Italy has always been an important market for Scotbeef and this award is well-deserved. Bennet’s supermarket has been a great advocate for the Scottish meat industry over the last 10 years and now this award recognises that commitment. We hope to continue with this and develop the business further in the future.”

Scotland has a wide range of GI [Geographical Indicator] products, which could now be stretched to cover the likes of Harris Tweed and tartan. Arguably the country’s most known geographically protected product is Stornoway Black Pudding, which received the status in 2013.

Catherine Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland, also acts as the consumer spokesperson in Europe and vice-chair of the internal market committee. She explained that receiving such a status has benefits for a business, as well as for the country as a whole.

“Recent figures show by volume and value, Scotland has some of the largest Protected Food Names in the EU, with high-value products such as Scotch Beef and Scottish Farmed Salmon accounting for around £700 million in sales. GIs help producers obtain a premium price for their products in exchange for guarantees offered to consumers on production methods and quality.”

She added: “GI status for food and drink products has provided a huge boost for the Scottish goods already granted the protection. Around a dozen more products are currently being considered and I hope to see many more of our fantastic goods benefit in the years to come.”

However, butchers south of the Scottish border, campaigning for a similar sort of recognition, have not experienced the same results.

Lincolnshire butchers have long been attempting to receive a geographically protected status for their Lincolnshire sausage, but to no avail.

Defra rejected the Lincolnshire Sausage Association’s application to have the name ‘Lincolnshire Sausage’ registered as a PGI in May 2012. The application did not meet the necessary requirements laid out by EU regulations regarding the link between the product and the county.

However, Defra did state that they would be willing to explore avenues in which the protection of the product could be gained. They suggested that the association apply for ‘Traditional Lincolnshire Sausage’, which would focus on the traditional recipe of the product.

According to Defra, a first draft application was made in 2013. This was subsequently returned with a request for further details, although no further correspondence has been received.

Neil Curtis, director of Curtis of Lincoln, said that although they were not successful in receiving the protected status, he believes that the product remained a firm favourite among the locals.

“It’s a nice thing about the county – we still have a large number of independent butchers who still produce their own sausages, and that’s what makes it one the of the county’s best products,” he said.

“The county produces a wide range of quality foods and, obviously, the Lincolnshire sausage is one of them. It’s a pity we didn’t get PGI status, but the campaign certainly did raise the profile of the sausage throughout the country and did help raise awareness of it.”

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