BEEF and lamb that have been reared in the Cotswolds can now stand alongside such foods as Cornish pasties and Stilton cheese after being awarded protected EU status.

The European Commission has awarded Protected Geographical Indication status to all cattle and sheep that have been born and raised in the six counties of South West England, including Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

The foods join more than 60UK foods that already have been protected by the UK including Cornish clotted cream and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

Charles Phillips, farmer at Macaroni Farm near Cirencester, that rears both beef and lamb, said: "It's very good for the industry. Obviously it will mean that people are more focused on regionalised products and the consumer will be able to know where their meat is coming from, I think that is very important."

The idea behind the Protected Food Name scheme is to give products protection from unauthorised imitations and to help reassure consumers that they are buying the genuine article.

To qualify for West Country branding, beef or lamb must have been born, raised and slaughtered in either Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset of Gloucestershire.

The livestock will also have to be fed on a 70 per cent grass and forage-based diet.

George Eustice, farming minister, said: “The government wants to help many more UK food producers apply for protected name status.

“Legal protection of the quality, provenance and reputation of British food will help small business make a valuable economic contribution both locally and nationally.”