Quality Meat Scotland is to launch a study to see if DNA testing could be introduced to guarantee authenticity of PGI Scotch Beef.
The study would consider how a DNA traceability system could be implemented, including when and where the samples would be taken, said QMS, which has been engaging with the Scottish meat industry to guage levels of support for an official scheme.
Scotch beef was one of the first meat bands to achieve PGI status, and the industry needed to ”robustly defend” the integrity of the brand from “unscrupulous activity”, warned QMS chairman Jim McLaren.
A DNA monitoring programme would add to existing industry measures used to prevent fraud, such as recording of movements and cattle passports, he added.
“Consumer trust is a key aspect of our Scotch Beef PGI brand and protecting the brand is vitally important,” McLaren said.
“We need to ensure its premium market position is protected and it is possible that DNA testing may offer the potential to take existing quality assurance and brands’ integrity measures to a new level.
“Crucially, our industry’s brand is underpinned by a world-leading, whole-of-life, whole-chain quality assurance programme - from farm to processor. Our beef producers in Scotland benefit from a price premium for their beef and it is vital this valuable reward for the work they do to deliver a quality product is not undermined.”
The research is currently out for tender, with QMS hoping to appoint contractors to carry out the study by the end of March. The cost of testing would depend on the mode of delivery suggested by the feasibility study, added a QMS spokeswoman.
NFU Scotland welcomed the announcement, calling for the study to provide a clear overview of the costs and benefits a DNA traceability system could have for the industry.
“The NFU Scotland Livestock Committee originally heard last year from QMS that proposals would be developed on the viability of DNA sampling to guarantee the authenticity of Scotch Beef and were keen at the time for there to be a thorough study prior to any introduction,” said NFU Scotland livestock policy manager John Armour.
“As a union we continue to work with QMS to raise the profile of the Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb brands and it is vital that as an industry we look to explore any proposals which can bolster the authenticity which underpins these brands.”