Defining 'high quality' for food production: Evidence review

Evidence review of definitions of ‘high quality’ in the context of primary food production, undertaken by The Rowett Institute



  • One of the main objectives in the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill is the ‘production of high-quality food’. However, ‘high quality’ is not defined in the Bill and there is a lack of consensus on how it should be defined in this context.
  • The purpose of this work is to provide an evidence base of where and how ‘high quality’ has been used in policy and legislation in other jurisdictions.
  • Researchers were asked to identify:
    • whether and how ‘high quality’ has been defined in the context of primary food production in the devolved nations (Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland), the UK (at a nation level), Ireland and the European Union
    • if a definition was provided, the targets and indicators used to help define it.


  • An initial snowballing approach was used to review references cited within the Rural Affairs and Island Committee meeting minutes and the draft Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill for mentions of ‘high quality’.
  • The database FAOLEX (an online repository of global policy and legislation by the Food and Agriculture Organisation) was then searched for the term ‘high quality’ across the jurisdictions outlined above.
  • In total, the snowballing approach and FAOLEX search yielded 116 texts which included the term ‘high quality’ but only 28 texts were relevant to agricultural, livestock and food and nutrition. Of these, only 18 texts pertained to food and production.


  • The term ‘high quality’ was not clearly defined in any text across any of the jurisdictions included in the research. However, it was often referred to in the context of animal welfare, nutrition, and environmental sustainability.



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