UK Names First Food with Protected Status in Post-Brexit Scheme

Since medieval times, sheep have grazed the salt marshes of the Gower peninsula in Wales. Around 3,500 lambs, ewes, and goats are fed there today. The meat is unique because of the samphires and sorrel that grow naturally.

The Gower Lamb, available between June and December, is more mature and has a longer life span than lambs raised intensively, adding to its distinctive taste.

This flavor has been granted protected status, and the farmers of these lambs are now members of an exclusive club. Other members are producers of Cornish cream, Melton Mowbray pies, and champagne. These products have been part of the European scheme for years, which only allows certain foods and drinks to be produced in specific places.

Since Brexit, the UK has created its geographic indication scheme that closely resembles the EU version. Gower salt-marsh lamb will be the first product added to the British system. It must be born and raised within the boundaries of the 19 constituencies that make up Gower Peninsular. The Gower salt marsh lamb joins the 16 Welsh products that are already protected, including Anglesey Sea Salt, Welsh Laverbread, and Conwy Mussels.

In my ongoing research, I am looking at the sustainability of the local food sector – both environmentally and socially. So far, my colleagues and I have found that local food production is a significant factor in ensuring rural communities are viable. Evidence shows that recognizing and protecting the link between the food and the region it is produced in can be beneficial to the community.

This protection is crucial in a highly competitive market. The food and beverage sector contributes PS29bn to the UK economy. Standing out has never been so important.

The Gower salt marsh Lamb was awarded the protected designation of Origin (PDO). This is only given to products that have the strongest links with their place of production. There is solid evidence to support the claim that these protections lead to higher prices for producers. Prices of French cheeses that have a PDO, for example, are higher on average by 11.5%.

PDOs help preserve traditional farming methods by specifying requirements for production methods. This includes recognizing the knowledge and skills of salt marsh ranges, as well as the shepherding abilities. These skills have been passed down through the generations.

It could have a negative impact on the sale and quality of Welsh lambs from other regions. These are protected by a less specific classification known as a protected geographic indication.

This is to emphasize the connection between the geographical region and the product name. Consumers will probably see the PDO as a sign that Gower Salt Marsh Lamb is even better in terms of quality and taste than other Welsh Lamb. This could be a major blow to many other Welsh sheep farmers who are currently benefiting from their PGI status. There is no research to date on how consumers perceive PGI and PDO categorization.

Geographic indicators are a good way to protect consumers from food fraud. They do this through an official auditing and authentication process. These indicators are intended to prevent things like the scandal of 2013, in which beef products across the EU contained varying amounts of horse meat.

Check meat

Local authority’s trading standards conduct extra auditing on products with geographic indicators to ensure that consumers are getting authentic products.

The compliance is monitored, and any suspicions of counterfeit goods can be reported to the enforcement agency, which has the authority to issue fines or prison sentences under different consumer laws.

Grazing on samphire. Shutterstock/Jane Campbell

Geographical indicators promote a sustainable system of food by encouraging localized approaches to food production. They promote and defend local and traditional production methods, which limit the intensification of the market and produce high-quality and welfare products.

By requiring production methods, GIs can provide greater stability to those in the industry. They also protect traditional skills and maintain viable rural livelihoods.

Alison Wilson, director of Halen Mon, told me that the designation of Anglesey Sea Salt as a PDO (protected since 2014) was “one of the proudest achievements” of the company. She continued: “It provides protection and status, as well as proof of the special qualities of our hand-harvested salt.” In a world of food fraud, we are the only British salt that has been audited.

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