People working in every area of the Scottish red meat industry were today (Thursday 17th January) urged to rally behind a raft of new initiatives to raise awareness of the excellent credentials of meat from Scotland.
Following the success of the Scotch Lamb marketing campaign in autumn 2018, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) is launching several new campaigns in the coming months. And Kate Rowell, who took over as QMS chair in October 2018, is urging everyone involved in the production of red meat in Scotland to get behind the new campaigns.
Among these is a brand-new marketing and public relations campaign behind Scotch Beef PGI which is set to increase consumers’ understanding of what sets quality assured beef from Scotland apart.
“Since taking up the role of QMS chair I have made a point of travelling the length and breadth of Scotland to meet and hear the views of the hardworking people dedicated to their roles in this very special industry,” said Kate Rowell.
“As a farmer and vet, I am well aware of the challenges faced by our industry and equally aware of the dedication and sheer hard graft that goes into producing the nutritious food source that is quality beef, lamb and pork.
“Having spoken with hundreds of people in my first few months in post I am also very aware of the huge frustration being felt at grassroots level given the wave of unbalanced, and very often totally inaccurate, media coverage driven by some very well funded organisations with an anti-red meat agenda.”
Around 50,000 jobs in Scotland are dependent on the red meat industry and Mrs Rowell urged all those involved - from farmers, processors and butchers to auctioneers, feed companies and hauliers - to support the forthcoming QMS campaigns.
“We are producing a brand-new TV advert as part of our ‘Know Your Beef’ campaign and we would like to involve people from all parts of the industry in this. Whether they are taking part in the TV advert or supporting via social media, everyone can all play a part in raising awareness of the facts behind our industry.
“Our aim is to collectively showcase all that we have to be proud of as producers of high quality, natural protein underpinned by world¬leading quality assurance schemes which make animal welfare a priority,”
Mrs Rowell added: “There is a real opportunity ahead of us to unite as an industry to communicate our commitment to sustainable farming and, indeed, our morale obligation to produce nutrient dense food source in Scotland from a land with abundant water which is ideally suited to coverting grass into food.”
Livestock farmers, she said, can share an immense pride in their role in maintaining Scotland’s landscape and providing habitats for wildlife some of which could not survive without the existence of grazing animals.
The Scotch Beef campaign will follow a marketing and PR campaign behind Specially Selected Pork which for the first time includes TV advertising and will launch on air on the 21st January. This pork campaign is being supported by £125,000 from the Scottish Government.
QMS launched a new strategy in May 2018 and Alan Clarke, QMS Chief Executive, said the organisation was in a strong position to support the Scottish red meat industry during this period of political and economic uncertainty.
QMS was one of a number of signatories of an open letter from members of the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership highlighting the “potentially catastrophic impact” of a “no deal” Brexit.
Mr Clarke said the prevailing uncertainty is proving extremely challenging for the industry in terms of future planning.
“Given the sustained lack of clarity, maintaining confidence in the industry is a major issue, not least for livestock producers trying to plan a way forward.”
Mr Clarke highlighted real concern about the potential impact of Brexit in terms of trade, particularly of sheepmeat to European markets. Around 25 to 30% of total sheepmeat processing revenue in Scotland is generated by EU export market trade, with the EU accounting for 97% of sheepmeat exports by value and 97.5% of beef exports by value.
Lack of labour was a further major concern for Scotland’s red meat processors. “Many of Scotland’s processors are already facing a real challenge in terms of staffing, particularly skilled butchery staff who play an absolutely vital role in the workforce of our abattoirs.”
Highlighting QMS’s commitment to deliver value for money for its farmer and processor levypayers, Mr Clarke said the vast majority of the organisation’s external spend (over 70%) was devoted to customer and consumer-facing activities, primarily marketing and promotion.
However, he also highlighted the organisation’s work to encourage the uptake of new technology and techniques to improve efficiency, saying he was very encouraged by the industry feedback on initiatives such as the grazing groups and monitor farm programme.
Looking to the organisation’s financial position, Mr Clarke said that during the year to 31st March 2018 the organisation’s total income was £5.8 million (compared with £6.4 million in 2017).
Income from the statutory red meat levy for the year was £3.79 million, down from £3.97 million on the previous year.
Turning to the detail of QMS’s financial accounts, Mr Clarke observed that during the year under review around £458,000 of income from grants was used to deliver qualifying activities.
Grants are a vital addition to QMS income, he said, pointing out that QMS staff work hard to secure this important additional funding to support the work it undertakes on behalf of the Scottish red meat industry.