12th June 2024

Educating the Next Generation: QMS's Role in Promoting Red Meat

By Ann Irvine, QMS Board member

One of the questions QMS is often asked is ‘what is it doing about educating young people about red meat?’ The answer is a positive one, and I was delighted to see the statistic that QMS’s Health and Education team had worked with almost 1,000 school pupils during April and I believe even more in May. It’s a fantastic achievement, and a reminder to everyone in Scotland’s red meat supply chain about how valuable QMS’s education role is.

It is not until you hear of schools where a QMS cooking demo has resulted in pupils trying lamb for the first time in their lives that you appreciate both the challenges and opportunities we have as a sector.

I’ve always been passionate about helping young people, whether it’s been working in further and higher education, being a board member at QMS and previously at the University of the Highlands and Islands, or helping with Young Farmers Clubs and mentoring individuals.

As someone from a farming background, growing up on a farm in Northern Ireland and now farming beef and sheep in Aberdeenshire with my family, I have always engaged with people about where their food comes from.

In the past, school children would have taken domestic science or home economics classes at school. They would have known about selecting, storing, preparing and cooking food, and about making the most of leftovers, but that’s much less the case now.

Education has a big role to play in what young people think and do, and it’s clear that QMS’s Health and Education team is working hard to fulfil that need when it comes to red meat. Connecting with pupils about the significance of the Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork brands is crucial, especially being able to talk about the high standards we produce to, our sector’s economic value, diverse job opportunities and the health and nutrition benefits the brands provide.

Young people are usually open to finding out more, and I have found they (and people in general) are often really surprised about how different and special our Scotch brands are compared with others. They are generally not aware of our quality assurance standards and how we manage animal health and welfare to one of the highest standards in the world. Their interest is heightened when they hear about the science involved in farming and producing Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork. For example, the range of technology that is used, the variety of systems available and creation of animal feeds specific to herd and flock needs. 

The detail about what we do is increasingly important and is reflected in the ‘Planet & Place’ pillar of QMS’s five-year strategy which was launched at last year’s Royal Highland Show. Delivering this means being proactive and telling the story of the Scottish red meat sector and its environmental credentials and sustainability, engaging with everyone from policy-makers to pupils and parents. The work in delivering this is well underway, with the revitalised Health and Education team set to build on their monthly 1,000+ pupil achievement. The QMS Health and Education team also work alongside organisations such as Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) and Food and Drink Federation.

I’m looking forward to seeing the team’s significant presence at the Royal Highland Show, showcasing the journey of red meat from farm to fork and highlighting the significance of our brands. Every conversation we have has the potential to inspire the next generation to make informed dietary choices, consider careers in the red meat sector, and appreciate the care and attention that goes into producing their food. 

As the Health and Education team’s reach and influence grows, QMS is seeking ambassadors from the industry to become part of the team. If you would enjoy talking to the next generation, educating and enthusing them about Scotland’s red meat sector, the team would love to hear from you – please email info@qmscotland.co.uk. Ambassadors will be paid for their time supporting these roles. Often it is not until you go into a classroom that you realise just what a difference telling our industry’s story – or cooking and tasting our produce - can make.

Check out the Health and Education section on the QMS website for more details.

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