The development of a test that could prove that food is Manx will add to consumer confidence in its consistently high quality.
A preliminary trial carried out by the University of East Anglia has demonstrated the ability to accurately determine that beef has been Manx-reared.
The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture will employ the tool after it’s tested further and it’s hoped the technique can be extended to other food, including lamb and cheese.
The test has the potential to instil even greater confidence in on and off-Island consumers, said Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture.
‘Local consumers are loyal to Manx beef and actively seek it out for its taste. Equally, exported beef with an Isle of Man origin is widely recognised for its quality,’ the Minister said.
‘Europe-wide standards over food labelling, which include a requirement to state origin, have now been extended to the Isle of Man.
‘However, 70% of meat sold in the Island is imported. Previously if a consumer expressed a concern that beef had been labelled incorrectly or that a country of origin was missing, there were no 100% accurate checks that could be made. The availability of this test rectifies that.’
The test will also boost Manx food and drink exports.
Italy is among countries that use the ability to scientifically prove the origin of its food in its marketing – for example in ensuring that nobody else can produce and label product such as parmesan that, under European law, can only be produced in a region of Italy
The Minister described the development of the traceability tool as ‘exciting’ and said: ‘It will mean consumers can be more confident than ever that the beef and – in future – other products they buy are guaranteed to be Manx and therefore of the highest standard.
‘Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about food provenance and are choosing to trust Manx for its provenance and traceability and to support our burgeoning food and drink industry,’ he said.
DEFA recently gained Tynwald’s approval for ‘Food Matters’ – a blueprint to grow the value of the Isle of Man food and drink industry by £50 million over the next decade.
The development of a distinctive local food and drink sector is a key aim of Vision 2020, the Government’s strategy for economic success.
More than 400 farmers produce red meat for the local and off-Island market. Minister Ronan said: ‘The strategy recognises the importance of the meat industry in meeting our growth targets. The meat sector is worth more than £30 million in the retail market, not to mention millions more in restaurants and catering and we want to capture as much of this as possible using quality local produce.’
Organising the testing is a joint initiative with Isle of Man Meats, which runs the Meat Plant.
Mike Owen, Chief Executive Officer of Isle of Man Meats, said: ‘The quality of Isle of Man meat is second to none and is a credit to farmers. Nowhere else can you so easily get the traceability from farm to fork and the guarantee that what you are getting is quality and locally produced as it all comes through our processing facility and meets Farm Assurance standards.
‘Currently, though, only 30% of the meat sold locally is supplied by us; a figure we are striving to increase. In the meantime, I am keen that our products are clearly differentiated from imports, which may not have full traceability or any guarantee of quality assurance.’