Quality Standard Mark scheme closure: FAQs

4 October 2021

AHDB has announced it is closing the Quality Standard Mark (QSM) on 31 March 2022 and will no longer be signing up new members. The following FAQs will explain more about the decision and you can find further information on our QSM page.

AHDB’s Beef & Lamb Board has taken the decision to close the QSM scheme by 31 March 2022.

The QSM was set up in 2004 to help drive eating quality consistency for beef and lamb in the absence of any wider industry initiative. It has been free for members to use, and the costs of auditing and maintaining the scheme have been funded by AHDB beef and lamb levy payers.

The QSM has achieved what the AHDB Beef & Lamb sector board set out to do. Since the Scheme’s launch, the industry has made advances in meat eating quality for beef and lamb, with retailers, catering butchers and supply chains now developing their own branded ranges based on the latest available science, driving continuous improvement through the supply chain.

This improvement in eating quality has been evidenced with regular quality testing by AHDB.

AHDB’s Beef & Lamb Sector Board now sees the focus for levy support shifting to focus on collecting and communicating the science behind improved meat quality for beef and lamb rather than administering its own scheme. This will be run through webinars, conferences, workshops and a refreshed website.

Various options for the future of the QSM have been carefully considered by the AHDB Beef and Lamb Board, looking at the strategic need for the scheme to continue, the parameters of existing supplier contracts, and the renewal of the QSM’s promotional state aids application as a quality scheme. 

These options also took into account the ongoing cost of maintaining the Scheme at its existing level of membership and the ability to establish value for money for any ongoing investment of beef & lamb levy payer funds.

The scheme will stop on 31 March 2022. All members of the Scheme will be informed that it is closing, and no new members will be accepted from October 2021. The Scheme’s auditors will be in touch if your business has a scheme audit planned before March 2022.

The scheme has around 2,500 members – with most of these being independent butchers. Members also include wholesalers, multiple retailers, catering butchers and exporters.

Scheme members will be given time to wind down and use existing QSM assets such as packaging and promotional material before the end of March 2022. 

Members’ personal data was specifically collected for the purpose of administering membership of the Scheme. Once the scheme closes that purpose will expire and AHDB will then delete all personal data of members.  Before March 2022, members will be invited to sign up for other AHDB materials they may find useful.

The Beef and Lamb Board decision is not related to the wider restructure of AHDB in the wake of the ballots in its Horticulture and Potato sectors.

It reflects a wider shift in the way AHDB will support the future progress of meat quality work for the ruminant sectors. 

AHDB’s focus will now be on collecting and communicating the science behind improved meat quality for beef and lamb rather than administering its own scheme.  This will be run through webinars, conferences, workshops and a refreshed website.

AHDB will continue to support the industry through the existing West Country PGIs (Protected Geographical Indicators) for Beef and Lamb and run its Meat Quality Masterclasses.

AHDB has also launched a new supplier information hub for smaller beef and lamb businesses at Trade and retail: meat production, sales and marketing | AHDB to give businesses such as farm shops a wide range of advice from meat cuts and box schemes to nutrition claims and recipe ideas.

A brand-new TV ad for AHDB’s We Eat Balanced consumer campaign is being planned for January 2022 with supporting digital and social activity, retailer promotion. This will help address growing consumer concerns about the sustainability and health credentials of beef, lamb, pork and dairy.  This work will run alongside AHDB support for other industry activities such as Love Lamb Week and Great British Beef Week.

AHDB currently promotes beef and lamb exports under a number of brands, including the QSM, the government’s ‘Food is Great’ scheme and Red Tractor. 

AHDB is reviewing its export brand strategy with the ambition of developing a unifying brand for red meat which can be rolled out globally with the ability to ‘dial up’ different messages in specific markets.

AHDB administers the West Country Beef and Lamb PGIs (Protected Geographical Indicator) on behalf of Meat South West. The PGIs are open to animals born, reared and finished in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Dorset and Wiltshire. The animals have to be fed a forage diet, and can be slaughtered anywhere in the country.  

A PGI is not a scheme, but a legal device to protect a product’s characteristics, reputation, authenticity and origin.

AHDB is supportive of quality assurance schemes, which can play a key role in the competitiveness of British agriculture.  All decisions regarding funding of work in any quality assurance scheme will need to meet the approval of the relevant AHDB Sector Boards.

Yes – AHDB will encourage members who currently get QSM kits to sign up for other AHDB promotional materials. This will help support wider AHDB consumer messaging on the nutrition and sustainability credentials of beef and lamb produced in Britain.