SPAIN HAS long been celebrated for their expertise in the art of curing and preparing red meat, with foodies flocking to the capital city of Madrid to sample their infamous produce.

Butcher shops frequent many a street corner, showcasing proudly the stories behind their meat and the care and attention which goes into its preparation.

On a recent trip to Madrid, I was blown away by the efforts in which butchers would go to, in order to engage with consumers; from butchery demonstrations in the famous food markets, meat tastings on many of their stalls and the pièce de résistance – a special dining experience which paid tribute to the butchers profession and their workspace.

The restaurant went by the name of ‘Sala de Despiece’ which translates to mean ‘the cutting room’ – designed to invite customers in to the butchers workspace, where they are encouraged by the staff to fully engage with the process of where their food comes from and how it is prepared.

The interior is a white, spotless space, inspired by the cutting areas from butchers’ shops and the team members wear uniforms made of butcher’s aprons and bow ties to honour the products they work with. Equipped with iPads, the staff help and serve customers, thoroughly explaining all the steps they need to know in order to interact and prepare their dishes.

The Scottish Farmer:

The interior was inspired by the cutting areas from butchers’ shops with the staff wearing butchers' aprons in tribute to the products they work with

My favourite dish was brought to me on an authentic butchers’ chopping platter, with different ingredients set to the side, ready for me to assemble the final product. The waiter explained that I was to drizzle truffle oil along the raw, thinly sliced pieces of T-bone steak, then sprinkle salt and pepper, followed by crushed tomatoes and finally to roll the steak in to small parcels. The result was mind-blowing, and the quality and tenderness of the meat was some of the best I have ever experienced – and boy was it an experience in every sense of the word!

There was a real sense of pride taken by the staff in the food that was served and the customers responded with equal enthusiasm – queues were backed out of the door and everyone praised the honest and open approach the restaurant took to involving their customers in the meat process.

One of the main things I took away from my trip, wasn’t that the meat I tasted was tastier, or prepared in a better fashion, but that the efforts which the industry went to, to engage with the public and promote their red meat messages were second to none.

The Scottish Farmer:

Customers are treated to an authentic dining experience showcasing many of the tools used in the preparation of meat

Scotland is a global leader in food and drink and our ‘Scotch’ beef brand is recognised internationally for that of excellent quality, however, I believe the industry still has many hurdles to overcome when it comes to addressing the growing disconnect between food producers and consumers.

Scottish farmers are beginning to shout more loudly about the care and attention which goes into their food but there is still a lot that could be learnt from the Spanish model, especially at the consumer facing end.

There is huge potential for the public to build greater respect and enthusiasm for the meat sector in Scotland, but this will only come to fruition, if as a wider society, we value our farmers and our butchers and credit them with the acknowledgement and respect they deserve.