Opportunities highlighted for Scottish red meat industry

Speaking at the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) ‘Foundation for Growth’ conference in Glasgow on Saturday (26 April), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chairman Jim McLaren said there were many reasons for the Scottish red meat industry to feel confident about the future.

McLaren flagged up a number of long-term positives for processors, including potential from the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Beef Calf Scheme and export opportunities.

Despite the concerns that surround CAP reform, he explained there could be some unexpected opportunities unlocked by it.

“While at face value this is an unwelcome policy which interferes unnecessarily with normal farming practices, if implemented in its current form it could result in more grass being grown and a switch back to more traditional mixed farming systems. QMS is currently looking at a range of management options which demonstrate that grass-based livestock enterprises can compare favourably with cereals on many Scottish farms,” he said.

The Beef Calf Scheme was highlighted as a positive signal for future beef production, with real scope for a recovery in beef calf numbers through innovation.

McLaren added that there is significant potential demand from overseas for quality brands with protected origin status, such as Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb.

“Export markets offer a significant opportunity for us. Earlier this month, for example, QMS attended the main food trade event in Singapore, as part of a Scottish delegation organised by Scottish Development International and Scotland Food & Drink.

“Singapore has the third highest per capita income in the world and it is not surprising, therefore, that there is a big demand for high-quality, premium food products in both the retail and foodservice sectors.

“What was very evident was the importance placed by consumers in Singapore on sourcing food which has strong ethical credentials - ie grass-fed and produced to high welfare standards without the use of growth hormones.”

Other future opportunities mentioned included improved communications using the Food Standards Scotland organisation, as well as maximising returns in export markets for the whole carcase due to strong demand for fifth-quarter products.

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