The SBLAS has been developed in response to the demands of the marketplace. There is an increasing demand from purchasers of Irish meat products for proof that the meat is produced sustainably on farms that are certified members of an accredited Quality Assurance Scheme which is based on sustainability principles incorporating environmental, social and economic aspects. Irish beef farms already produce meat sustainably according to a European Union (EU) survey. This survey reported that Ireland has the 5th lowest carbon footprint for beef in the EU (27 countries) and also performs favourably in relation to lamb. Through measurement and analysis the SBLAS will demonstrate the sustainability of Irish beef and lamb farming at individual farm level and provide constructive feedback to farmers to help them with decision making aimed at improving their sustainability performance.
The primary objectives of the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme are:
Sustainable agriculture is defined as ‘the productive, competitive and efficient production of safe agricultural products, while protecting and improving the natural environment and the socio-economic conditions of farmers and local communities, and while safeguarding the health and welfare of all farmed species.’ Sustainable production therefore means that not only should farms be operated efficiently, but that producers should also aspire to pass the land and resources on to the next generation in as good (or, indeed, better) condition than they inherited it. In the meat sector, leading multinational customers are looking for suppliers who have credibility in sustainable production. In order to retain and grow long-lasting business relationships with these customers, sustainability initiatives (in areas such as minimising greenhouse gas emissions, conservation of water, good soil management, improving biodiversity, enhancing social and economic performance) are required to demonstrate the sustainability performance of the farms through independently derived data. Under the SBLAS, data is assembled from all available sources relating to the performance of the farm (live sales, slaughtering, farm inputs, etc.). This information is then merged on the Bord Bia database with the additional data collected by the Bord Bia farm auditor during audit. Calculations are performed on this database using the combined data in accordance with the accredited Bord Bia Carbon Footprint Model. These calculations provide the carbon footprint of the meat produced. This is a key indicator of the sustainability of the farm.
The Standard (and the Scheme based on the Standard) is accredited to the International Standard for Product Certification ISO 17065: 20122 by the Irish National Accreditation Board. During the Bord Bia visit, the compliance of the Applicant / Producer (in areas relating to legal, quality and customer requirements relevant to traceability, food safety, hygiene, health and safety, welfare, etc.) with the quality assurance criteria in the Standard is assessed. A report on the level of compliance achieved is then prepared for the Applicant / Producer.
Sustainable production and efficient production go hand in hand. Sustainability involves minimising the amount of resources (e.g. energy, feed, water etc.) used by the enterprises involved, as well as implementing measures that enhance the environmental performance of those enterprises. These sustainability measures also typically deliver economic benefits through lower costs of production.
The Scheme will assist in the marketing of meat in several ways, including demonstrating the commitment of Irish beef and lamb farms to ‘green’ farming practices. Beef and lamb sourced from sustainable farms will gain access to markets that demand certification. As part of the Origin Green Sustainability Programme, sustainability assessment will be a key area of focus. The SBLAS builds on previous work completed in the areas of beef and lamb production. It will enhance Bord Bia’s ability to effectively communicate the current credentials of the Irish livestock sector to key customers and to highlight how the industry is focussing on optimising its performance in a number of key sustainability areas. This will help create a market preference for Irish beef and lamb among those customers with stated sustainability targets.