hThe Scottish red meat industry can look to the future with confidence, despite the recent challenges it has faced, according to Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS)
Speaking at the QMS industry breakfast on the opening morning of the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, Mr McLaren said the industry deserved greater recognition for its role in producing top quality food using systems which makes a very positive contribution to sustainability.
“In this, the Year of Natural Scotland, we are pulling out all the stops to deliver clarity on the very positive sustainability role delivered by the production of Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb.
“Indeed Scottish livestock producers are at the heart of our country’s sustainability - environmental, social and economic - and they deserve recognition as the unsung heroes of the food security debate.”
Mr McLaren acknowledged the challenges the industry has faced over the past year – from the exceptionally wet weather to significant re-structuring in the Scottish processing sector.
Referring to the horsemeat scandal which dominated the headlines earlier this year, Mr McLaren said “intense price competition coupled with elongated supply chains helped to create the conditions for the adulteration of beef with horsemeat.”
“This level of extreme price competition is a race to the bottom from which there can be no winners.” Mr McLaren said the industry in Scotland had made a major commitment to traceability and quality assurance from farm to processor. “This puts our brands - Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork - in a strong position when issues such as these arise.
“The good news is that our retailers are increasingly recognising this and choosing to display the Scotch logos while consumers are increasingly seeking out products with strong provenance and traceability.”
A QMS survey of around 300 members of the Scotch Butchers Club, in the wake of the horsemeat issue, revealed 92% of butchers experienced increased footfall and 95% of butchers believe customers’ trust in the Scotch Beef brand. The vast majority of butchers are also optimistic about how the butchers’ sector will develop over the next 12 months.
However, Mr McLaren warned that knife edge margins are being endured by many in the processing sector; a sector which has seen considerable change in the past year.
“Key to the future is achieving critical mass of raw material and it is vital we maintain the livestock numbers needed to satisfy the demand for our world-acclaimed brands. “Part of this solution requires the successful outcome of the CAP negotiations and the ability for Scotland to continue with, or indeed increase, its support for the suckler cow in the form of a coupled calf payment.”
Mr McLaren said QMS also continues to support the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver a positive result on levy repatriation.
“Scotland is currently missing out on £1.4 million of lost levy annually. In the meantime we are witnessing yet more store animals leaving Scotland destined for finishing south of the Border.
“While this is welcome in terms of the clear indication it gives of the demand for high quality, high health Scottish livestock it does mean more animals are being slaughtered outwith Scotland, resulting in a further erosion of levy income.
“This also adds to the shortage of livestock to supply Scottish abattoirs which are already struggling to source the critical mass needed to operate profitably.”
In 2012 Scotch Beef was named the biggest selling Scottish food and drink brand in Great Britain (source: Kantar Worldpanel), observed Mr McLaren.
“Our industry has a huge amount to be proud of. We have a compelling message in terms of what sets our brands apart - from the world-leading quality assurance behind the Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork labels to our high animal health and welfare and our natural, grass-based cattle and sheep production systems.
“I am proud to represent our fabulous industry at home and abroad and look forward with optimism to a strong future for industry.”