So long as Serbian meat producers use nationally sourced protein, they can now apply for the first-ever ‘Serbian Quality’ – or ‘Srpski Kvalitet’ – label, highlighting the food contains Serbian-sourced raw materials.
The new label was unveiled by Serbia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection in the capital city, Belgrade.
Serbia’s government has been working alongside the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to get the country’s meat industry to adopt higher quality standards.
This comes as “intense” imports of cheap meat flood the domestic market and local meat processors manufacture products using frozen meat bought from overseas.
The new quality label will only be available to firms which sell meat from animals raised in Serbia, that are also raised on feed free from genetically modified organisms.
It allows premium meat producers to differentiate their products on supermarket shelves in the country – but one eye is also on exports.
“This is an important development for our country’s food industry as a whole, as the national label will assure consumers that what they are buying is made with products from the Republic of Serbia and is of superior quality,” said Branislav Nedimović, Serbia’s Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Protection.
“It will create a premium for quality meat products and help producers tap into new markets.”
The label, partly funded by Luxembourg, was created after a group of meat-processing firms and government stakeholders put their heads together to create a food label recognising higher production standards.
It is partially inspired by the French quality mark ‘Label Rouge’, which has been on the market since the 1980s.
Meat producers cannot just apply for a new label through; applications have to come from a registered association. This decree led to the creation of the Serbian Meat Quality Label Association, formed in 2016, to carry out vetting and application checks and duly submit them to the government for approval.
“This association is very useful, not only for identifying and promoting products that can obtain the quality mark, but also for encouraging a productive dialogue between the industry and government authorities on quality issues,” said Miljan Ždrale, head of agribusiness for south-eastern Europe with the EBRD.
He added it also encouraged the industry to aspire to higher food safety and quality standards.