Archive for Standards

Quality Marks

Newsletter No. 23 – February 2005 Item 3

The UK Pig industry is introducing a Quality Standard Mark.  The industry is investing £1million (US$1,87m) to launch the initiative.

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the manner in which animals producing their meat are raised and how they are fed.  Legislation banning the use of stalls and tethers in pig farming came into force in 1999 in the UK.  A British consumer survey showed that 92 percent agreed that imported meat should be produced to U.K. minimum standards.   Currently more than 50 percent of all pork, bacon, and ham on supermarket shelves is imported -- a figure which rose by four percent in 2003.  The price of this imported pork is cheaper as there are cost implications to raise the pork to the new British standards.

The promotional campaign includes national press and magazine advertising, direct mail, and a public relations campaign. A website is due to be launched, which will allow consumers to find out which supermarkets stock pork, bacon, and ham meeting U.K. standards.

UK Pig farmers are being put at a very real disadvantage as more and more supermarket shelves are being filled up with cheaper imports that would be illegal to produce in the UK.  The industry makes it clear that it is not an anti-import campaign. Imported products can carry the Quality Standard Mark if they meet UK standards in production methods.  The industry is simply trying to make consumers aware of this issue. The Quality Standard Mark gives them clear, simple information they need to make an informed choice.

An organisation in the United States have introduced a quality standard label - Certified humane raised and handled.  The certification recognises the increased consumer concerns and provides a certification for producers wishing to operate best practices to gain competitive advantage.  Their mission is to improve the welfare of farm animals by providing viable, credible, duly monitored standards for humane food production and ensuring consumers that products meet these standards.   Key areas they are looking at are raising animals with sufficient space, quality feed, with no added antibiotics or hormones.  Funding is through a headage payment, which obviously adds to the rearing costs, but is recuperated from the added value.

These type of quality marks are only of any value if all producers in the scheme operate them with pride and do not try to cheat the system.   They are also only of value if the buyers are aware of the benefits, hence the need for strong promotion.  Pork production in Great Britain for 2004 amounted to 158,974 metric tonnes.  Therefore the US$1.87m is equivalent to a little more than 1cent per kilo of meat when measured against the annual production.  This demonstrates the benefits of economies of scale and pooling resources for promotion.

Benchmarking

Newsletter No. 26 – May 2005 Item 4

A benchmark is: a standard by which something can be measured or judged.

Benchmarking is the process of determining who is the very best, who sets the standard and what that standard is.

Benchmarking is a management tool used by many businesses to measure their performance against the standards or other businesses.  In the case of agriculture, performance is measured against other producers.

This is one reason why maintaining good records is essential in commercial agriculture.  Monitoring methods and costs, benchmarking helps farmers have a greater understanding of their production systems and how one or two changes can make a significant difference to their bottom line.

To help UK red meat producers become more competitive with the changes in the subsidies, the Red Meat Industry Forum has set up a benchmarking scheme.   A quote for the discussion on the benefits to producers:

Quote:  One issue is very clear.   The meat industry will no longer be able to afford to produce over 50% of its product outside market conformation and fat class, or 20% outside the target weight range.  By using this free benchmarking system, we can help producers understand just how crucial this is to profitability. End quote

There is a very good reason that increased supply of the food on the market is coming from a decreasing number of suppliers, who are growing progressively larger.  That reason is not confined to the fact that the major buyers require large scale producers.  The reason is that they are the suppliers (producers/processors) who recognise the current market needs.  They also operate to a high degree of precision with high standards of management.

That fact became very clear to me the very first time I entered an ostrich abattoir.  An excellent abattoir working to get the best product they could to the market - but they had no control over the birds offered for slaughter.   They had to do the best with what they were presented with.  Quality production starts on the farm.

Meat Quality

Newsletter No. 22 – January 2005 Item 4

The following is the opening statement of a document entitled "Factors Affecting Poultry Meat Quality" produced by Julie K. Northcutt a scientist from The University of Georgia:

Quote:  Before poultry meat quality is addressed, the term quality should be clearly defined as it relates to poultry. This is a difficult task, because quality is "in the eye of the beholder." For example, someone trying to sell a product might view its quality in terms of how well it sells and how much people are willing to pay for it.  However, this definition is incomplete, because it does not consider the product's character. Since people only buy what they like, the consumer's perspective of quality is more appropriate. When consumers buy a poultry product, cook and serve it to their families, they expect it to look, taste, and feel good in their mouth. If these characteristics do not meet the consumer's expectation, the product is considered to be of lower quality.

Whether or not a poultry product meets the consumer's expectations depends upon the conditions surrounding various stages in the bird's development from the fertilized egg through production and processing to consumption. end Quote

Figure 1  defines different aspects of food products that determine quality.

Figure 1 - Defining Aspects Influencing Meat Quality

The author goes on to discuss only Appearance, Texture and Flavour in this particular paper.   She interprets Appearance as Colour and Texture as Tenderness.   Figure 2 is a diagrammatic interpretation of Flavour perceptions.

Figure 2 - Flavour Perceptions (Adapted from Lawless 1991)


All readers I am sure will agree that the aspects discussed are identical for any meat product, it is only the characteristics unique to each specie that will differ.  The WOA Meat committee has already produced a document "Factors Influencing Meat Quality".  One of the many research projects that will be undertaken as part of the research and development projects will be more clearly defining the areas in these diagrams as they apply to ostrich.

For example, under appearance colour is known to be most important.  With Ostrich we currently suffer from meat that is very dark, from meat that can be white (white muscle disease) and from muscles that are often multi-coloured.  All of these things are very controllable with the right production methods, yet over the years I have heard producers, processors and marketers state that these things are normal.  I have listened to a  perceived expert at an Ostrich conference tell the audience that it is normal for the meat to darken very quickly on oxidation.   These negative aspects are controllable in all specie as they are symptoms of a poor diet, correct the diet and the symptoms disappear..

Common sense suggests that a piece of meat that is a good even colour, not too dark and brightens on oxidation is going to be far more attractive to the customer than meat that is either dark in colour, blackens on oxidation and/or may have unevenness of colour within the muscle.   As this paper states, production methods are an important part of the quality control/marketing program of all our products.

Attention to the detail of all these aspects are one step required to enhance the REVENUE and therefore profitability