AHDB to wind down the Quality Standard Mark Scheme (QSM)

Monday, 4 October 2021

AHDB is to close its Quality Standard Mark Scheme (QSM) for Beef and Lamb next March (2022).

The Scheme, which is fully funded by AHDB, was launched in 2004 and is based on existing assurance schemes. It includes requirements which have a positive impact on meat quality such as age specifications for cattle and sheep and maturation times.

AHDB’s Beef & Lamb Sector Board which agreed the move now sees the focus for levy support shifting to a new approach to meat quality which focuses on building and disseminating the supporting science to the industry.

The decision comes as the wider industry has made advances in meat eating quality for beef and lamb, with retailers, catering butchers and supply chains now developing their own branded and tiered ranges based on the latest available science. This has helped drive continuous improvement through the supply chain and generate a better eating experience for consumers.

 Regular quality testing by AHDB has also supported the improvement in meat quality.

 AHDB will continue to support both West Country PGIs for Beef and Lamb, and its Meat Quality Masterclass programme, which has now restarted as Covid restrictions have lifted.

Will Jackson, AHDB Beef & Lamb Strategy Director, said: “Improving meat quality and consistency of product is a constant ask from our industry, but concerns around red meat and health and the environmental impact of livestock production in this country are now displacing eating quality as the main issues for consumers. 

“This is where AHDB’s marketing campaigns such as We Eat Balanced can have a positive impact, giving reassurance around continued ‘permission to eat’ beef and lamb as part of a sustainable, balanced diet.

“Since the Scheme was launched nearly all the major retailers, catering butchers and their supply chains have invested in their own tiered quality ranges for beef and lamb. They have addressed issues such as maturation regimes, improved packaging and in some instances looked at traceability tools such as DNA sampling to drive better eating quality.

“This has prompted the question as to whether supporting a specific eating quality scheme continues to be the best use of the beef and lamb levy.”

A new information hub for farm shops and smaller beef and lamb businesses has been launched by AHDB to provide a one stop shop to give advice and support on a range of issues including beef and lamb cuts, nutrition claims and carcase yield calculators.

AHDB will be encouraging High Street butchers who currently get QSM - branded promotional kits to sign up to receive other beef and lamb campaign point of sale kits which will be available during the year.