WEST Country beef and lamb have joined the ranks of some of the UK's most famous foods such as Stilton cheese and Melton Mowbray pies by securing protected status.

The meat, from stock born, raised and finished in Wiltshire, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire or Dorset, has been awarded European Union protected food name status, which guarantees their authenticity and origin and prevents imitation products from using their name.

The latest awards bring the total of UK products which are protected to more than 60, including Cornish clotted cream, Whitstable oysters and Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese.

Protected food products in the UK contribute an estimated GBP900 million to the European economy, and the Government is keen to encourage more applications for protected status.

Farming minister George Eustice said: "Exceeding the 60th registration is an achievement to be proud of. Legal protection of the quality, provenance and reputation of British food will help small businesses make a valuable economic contribution both locally and nationally.

"We now want to help many more UK food producers who are thinking about making an application for protected name status to get their quality produce fully recognised."

Peter Baber, chairman of Meat South West, said: "We are delighted to be awarded PGI status for West Country beef and lamb.

"We look forward to working with farmers and processors in the south west region to market top quality beef and lamb under the West Country PGI banner."