South West meat aims for quality mark

South West beef and lamb could soon be awarded its own quality standard mark, to promote its taste and provenance.

After almost three years of work by Meat South West, the region's beef and lamb is close to attaining a Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) from the European Commission.

Campaigners said the status would protect and promote the region's traditional, environmentally friendly farming practices.

Only beef and lamb produced to Meat South West's standards will be able to bear the PGI mark, giving it the same protection and provenance as Champagne, Parma ham and Roquefort cheese.

Helen Ashcroft, manager of Meat South West, said: "The PGI mark is widely recognised and well-respected across the Continent, but is less well-known in the UK.

"It is incredibly difficult to attain, and gives consumers the confidence that what they are buying is the best quality possible."

Beef and lamb will have to be born, reared and finished in the South West to qualify for the PGI mark, and farmed in a traditional, environmentally friendly way with a diet of at least 70% grass. "It is these traditional farming practices which make our beef and lamb so unique," added Ashcroft.

"Grass-based diets are proven to give the meat a wonderful, succulent flavour and, by buying South West beef and lamb, consumers can be confident that they are not only getting a superb product, they are also supporting the region's farmers and protecting the landscape that we all love.

"These ancient farming systems, which shape our beautiful countryside and environment, are under threat, and it is essential that we protect them for future generations to enjoy."

South West livestock representatives visited Brussels last month (October) to support the application, which will soon go to European consultation. The European Commission is due to make its final decision by August next year.

Ashcroft said: "The Commission was very supportive of the application, which we believe is vitally important to the region's red meat industry. The PGI will give the South West a unique selling point and great marketing opportunities both within the UK and across Europe."

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