12th September 2011

Scottish rugby legends throw weight behind the Scotch Label

Three Scottish rugby legends are throwing their weight behind a new campaign to encourage consumers to support the Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork labels.

The trio of inspirational sportsmen set to take part in the campaign - John Jeffrey, David Sole and Rob Wainwright - are all livestock farmers and members of the quality assurance schemes which underpin the three labels.

John Jeffrey, known affectionately as “JJ”, who farms in the Scottish Borders and near Dunbar, was nicknamed "The White Shark" during his international rugby career because of his distinctive blond thatch of hair.

A formidable player, he won forty caps for Scotland between 1984 and 1991, making him, at the time, Scotland's most capped flanker and also a British and Irish Lion.

John played in two Rugby World Cups, including New Zealand in 1987, and will be over in New Zealand during the coming weeks in his current role as a Scotland representative on the International Rugby Board.

“Scotland have trained really hard. The team has a tremendous coach and are as fit as they have ever been and, while there’s no doubt they have a tough group, I’m sure they will have a seriously good hard go at the tournament over the coming weeks.”

These days John runs 1300 Scottish Blackface and Greyface ewes over 1300 acres at Deuchrie near Dunbar. The ewes are run over three hills extending to 1100 feet above sea level. John, who farms in partnership with his father Jim and wife Anne, also runs 1100 acres at Kersknowe as a tenant on the Duke of Roxburgh’s estate.

John married fairly late in life but one perk of his bachelor decades was they ensured he learned to cook. “Friends and family teased on our wedding day that having cooked Anne my full repertoire of seven passable dishes I had no choice but to propose!”

The quality of beef and lamb Scotland produces is something John clearly takes great pride in. “Our family are big fans of roasts which I like to cook. We’ll cook a leg of lamb on Sunday, have cold lamb on Monday and a curry on Wednesday so we get three great meals from just one leg of lamb,” added John.

David Sole made his Scotland debut in 1986 against France and went on to win 44 caps at prop between 1986 and 1992, with a record 25 as captain. He was also the first choice loosehead prop with the victorious British Lions in Australia in 1989.

In 1990, David Sole was captain at one of Scotland’s greatest matches, the Grand Slam decider at Murrayfield against the hot favourites, England. David took the decision for his team to make the now famous walk onto the pitch, in a statement of resolve which unnerved England and saw Scotland nail the match.

David also played in the first Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 1987 and is confident that Scotland have a very good chance of qualifying from their group.

“I think there’s no reason they shouldn’t win the games against Argentina and England and it would be fantastic if they could come out of their group as the top qualifier,” said David.

“The real beauty of world cups is when you get to the knock-out stages sheer dogged determination can take you forward. Scotland should really fear no-one but it is crucial they perform well at the group stage.”

David’s current farming enterprise sees him run 120 Aberdeen Angus cows at the 1200 acre Glenbuchat Estate in Aberdeenshire. The hill there runs to 1800 feet above sea level and David has built his herd up over recent years from a foundation herd of forty cows. “The Aberdeen Angus breed is perfect for us because the females are easy calving, great mothers which milk well and good natured cattle to work with,” said David, whose passion for producing great stock is unmissable.

Currently all the cows are in-wintered with the majority of the herd being spring calving and feed-wise David is keen for the unit to be as self-sufficient as possible with the use of red and white clover mixes through the grass helping silage quality. Dry cows and some other young stock are out-wintered, strip grazing kale. While David still has work commitments in the central belt he usually spends at least two days a week working on the farm - longer when he can – often assisted by the rest of his family, Jamie, Gemma, Chris and Tom.

The third legend in the trio is former Scotland international player Rob Wainwright who was capped 37 times, including 16 times as captain and once for the British Lions. He could play all back row positions and was revered for his steely resolve on the pitch.

Rob describes Scotland’s chances of emerging top of their group as “eminently do-able” though he echoes the sentiments of John and David in his hope that Scotland emerge as top qualifiers, which should see them avoid an early clash with New Zealand.

A doctor by profession, he was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1987 and rose to the rank of Major in 1996. These days Rob runs two farms and bed and breakfast on the Hebridean Isle of Coll with his wife Romayne.

The two Coll units, Cliad and the more recently purchased Lonbaan, total 4500 acres, with a further 500 rented. The Wainwrights run 60 suckler cows and 450 ewes, mostly Cheviots and Lleyns, and they are planning to substantially increase their flock size.

The biggest challenge of island farming is, says Rob, logistics with careful planning required for example to ensure adequate quality feedstocks. “The type of farming here is very natural and the most important thing in my view is that you have to ensure you are breeding animals which are low maintenance and well equipped to look after themselves,” said Rob.

While the type of farming he undertakes is a traditional system which works with nature, Rob makes good use of modern breeding tools, including Estimated Breeding Values, to ensure his stock are best suited to his system.

The three players will be profiled in the coming weeks in conjunction with Quality Meat Scotland’s “Get Behind The Label” campaign which will run throughout Scotland. This £220,000 campaign aims to improve consumers’ understanding of the quality, high welfare and traceability behind the Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork brands.

It also aims to bring into the cities a sense of the livestock husbandry skills, tradition and heritage which are embodied by the farmers who produce the beef, pork and lamb for these famous brands.

The farmers who will feature in the atmospheric billboard displays over the coming months are a mixture of beef, pork and lamb producers from around Scotland, many of whom are from families who have been farming for many generations with the three rugby players appearing in a butchers’ shop campaign.

“We are absolutely delighted John, Rob and David are supporting our ‘Get Behind the Label’ campaign.

“There is a real synergy between farming and rugby, particularly a sense of pride and determination to be undaunted by the elements. These three former Scotland international players show the same absolute conviction to their farming operations as they did on the pitch and their involvement in our campaign over the coming weeks – with rugby so high profile - will substantially help to convey the many reasons our farmers take such pride in the quality of the beef, lamb and pork they produce,” said Jim McLaren, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland.

“All three rugby legends are also proud members of our quality assurance schemes which are among the best and most long-established in the world, giving consumers confidence in the high standards of welfare, quality and traceability behind our ‘Scotch’ brands.”

Sign up for the latest news and views