Mixed messages on menu at Meat the Future event

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Scotland’s beef, lamb and pork producers and processors were challenged yesterday to rethink the future trajectory of the red meat business by focusing on exports and embracing the opportunities offered by climate change.

However, after a full day of sometimes mixed messages from international, national and local speakers, many of the 400 delegates left Quality Meat Scotland’s Meat the Future conference in Glasgow unsure about how the often heady ambitions could be realised.

They were told by Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers to ignore the current anti-farming rhetoric and negative publicity, and to “let vegans be”.

Instead, Mr Withers appealed to the farmers, processors, retailers and chefs to use the Scottish meat industry’s strong environmental credentials to grab the “phenomenal opportunity” surrounding climate change.

“Bring it on,” he said. “The world’s going to eat less red meat but it needs to eat better, so here we come. In Scotland we can be masters of sequestration, and embrace and promote how we manage our grassland and the phenomenal importance of our peatland.”

He insisted the opportunities for Scottish meat lay in exports rather than domestic markets which are dominated by retailers like Lidl, Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons. He said: “They take the vast majority of what we produce and we export less than 10%.

“I don’t think we can operate an optimum sustainable industry if our only customers are in a few hands in the UK. It will be challenging and scary to think about moving beyond that solid customer base, and there is a fear that others will come in and take that market, but we have to change the dynamics.”

 

Nancy Nicolson

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