In order to acquire consumer credibility and offer a distinct product in France a system of official signs of quality and origin has been set up, which interests also beef. These official signs of quality help to restore consumer confidence and improve the image of meat.
The quality policy at the French Ministry of Agriculture started with product labels (law of agricultural orientation of 1960), continued with products from organic farming (law of guidance of 1980) and finally further improved with the certification of product conformity as the most important recent sign (1990). The so-called Red Label provides a guarantee of a superior quality of the final product. Multiple initiatives have led to a segmentation of the supply with products, that provide assurances about safety (in particularly strong guarantees on meat), combined with other quality attributes such as certain sensory characteristics, image of the cattle breed and region of origin. The objective is to better promote agricultural products. These quality strategies are primarily based on compliance with and control of a product specification focused on the final product quality.
The competitive advantage of these red labels comes mainly from the quality of animals and the quality of the way of breeding. The "breeding conditions" aspects are decisive because of consumer expectations, but also because of the involvement of the Ministry of Agriculture in the management of these quality labels.
Lessons that can be learned from this practice is that the official quality label put in place has a relevant impact on production techniques of the farms due to the imposed product specification. An example is the incorporation of a feed rich in Omega 3. However the quality segment must be well positioned in relation with the standard supply. Only in this way a value increase can be obtained. As the sensory quality differences are not being shown on the Label, this may create a weakness in relation to beef quality. According to the Meat Information Center (MIC), a loss of credibility can appear with a supply under a quality label close to 30% of the total consumption.
Authors: Mylène Berruyer and Hélène Fuchey - IDELE