SEDGEMOOR farmers have welcomed the news that West Country beef and lamb has gained protected EU status.

Meat from the area has been designated as a Protected Food Name (PFN) by the European Commission, following an eight-year campaign.

Cattle born and reared in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Dorset or Gloucestershire now have Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

West Country meat will join the ranks of Cornish pasties, Cornish clotted cream and more than 60 other UK foods - safeguarding products from unauthorised imitation.

Robert Venner, managing partner of Sedgemoor’s livestock market, Sedgemoor Auction Centre at Junction 24, said: “I represent South West livestock auctioneers as a board member of Meat South West. We have been campaigning to get PGI status for many years. There was a lot of red tape and a huge process to go through.

“But now, not only will UK customers know they are buying the genuine article, but having PGI status will be wonderful for exports.

“Beef and lamb bred and fed in the West Country will be packaged with a clear label, hopefully encouraging more sales.”

Mr Venner said the two key things that make West Country beef so special are a good diet and a welfare-friendly environment. Under the guidelines, livestock will have to be fed on a 70% grass and forage-based diet.

“Grass makes all the difference,” says Mr Venner. “Our silage is grass-produced. We are fodder-based and the time that our cows are grazing on the field is longer than in other areas.

“In drier areas they have shorter seasons and cattle diet is mostly corn-based. A grass diet produces a healthier product.”

The labels are being designed now, but it will be a while before they will be rolled out in supermarkets.