Bord Bia has announced that the farm standards for its quality assurance schemes will be “revamped”.
Giving an update on Bord Bia’s sustainability programme, Deirdre Ryan, director of Origin Green, said that sustainability has been a “really key topic for our industry for the last number of years but never more so than now”.
“Climate commitments and policy changes, the 22% to 30% reduction targets, the Cop26 summit coupled with increasing consumer and customer expectations are driving increased demands for data-backed sustainability claims and proof of sustainability progress,” said Ms Ryan.
“The increased focus on sustainability brings both challenges and opportunities for the food sector.
“A lot has been achieved to date by the industry but, collectively, we need to strengthen our ambition and commitment to maintain our leadership position in sustainable food production.”
Bord Bia recently launched its Statement of Strategy for 2022 to 2025, with sustainability “embedded” in it.
Ms Ryan told Bord Bia’s recent meat market seminar that with increased environmental challenges, market demands, and competition in this space, “we do need to double down on our collaborative efforts”.
Origin Green works with around 53,000 farms and 324 Irish food and drink companies with the aim to improve the sustainability of products.
On-farm assessments constitute a key component of the Origin Green programme.
Sustainability assessments are rolled out at the farm level through Bord Bia’s sustainability quality assurance schemes.
Due to the pandemic, a lot of auditing as part of the schemes has been taking place remotely.
In addition to quality, the sustainability criteria measured and monitored are greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, water use, energy efficiency, soil management, and socioeconomic factors.
Advice is given to farmers by Origin Green primarily through a farmer feedback report.
The outcomes Origin Green is working towards on the sustainable production side include a climate-neutral pathway, improved biodiversity and regenerative practices, and integrated circular economy approaches.
“The absolute essential is that farmers are at the heart of this, which will be facilitated by our farmer engagement strategy,” said Ms Ryan.
“How we capture value in the marketplace will be through demonstrating our credentials and proving responsible choices, so that Ireland is seen as a source of sustainable supply offering better health nutrition solutions, providing customers with enhanced assurance and proof points of quality and sustainability, and recognise leadership in food sustainability.”
One of the “biggest changes” coming in the near future is that Bord Bia farm standards “will be revamped” over the course of 2022 and 2023, with new technical advisory committee members, procedures, and processes.
“Thereafter, we’ll go into a cycle of a four-year review. The processor standards will also enter a four-year review cycle, but not the same year.
“This will ensure our standards are updated and released on a more frequent and consistent system basis, facilitating a more responsive, proactive approach to the ever-evolving market conditions.
“Other benefits include consistency in training, auditing, and better reporting.”
Ms Ryan also said that a successor to the Meat Processor Quality Assurance Scheme — the Sustainable Food Processor Scheme —will roll out this year.
“We’ll continue to work with processors and producer initiatives for additional claims, such as animal welfare pilots, and the Origin Green Retail and Foodservice Charter will be updated and launched,” added Ms Ryan.
Companies will also be supported to set “science-based targets” for cutting emissions.