In April the QMS levy increases. For many in the farming sector the levy has for a long time been seen as an input cost which generates very little in terms of direct return.

On occasions I too have been of that opinion. However, with levy increases for livestock also going through in Wales and England I have taken the time to engage with QMS’s senior management, my members in Scotland, and particularly those working in the foodservice sector.

The grocery sector categorises consumer spend on everyday products as being ‘Fast Moving Consumer Goods’ (FMCG) and whilst the supermarkets control much of this spend through own label it is branded goods such as say Walkers Crisps, McVities, Heinz etc where huge sums of marketing money is spent to encourage frequent purchase.

Scotch Beef is a brand. It also holds a hard-won space in the broad FMCG category whereby it appears on both supermarket own label beef as well as on branded products such as Scotch Beef Burgers. I am told in marketing speak this is called ‘cross fertilization of brands’ and I am told it hard to successfully achieve. And yet, Scotch Beef, has managed it. Not by luck but by the skill of the QMS team in providing buyers with the reason to engage with Scotland’s livestock farmers.

Writing on the QMS website, Kate Rowell, the organisations chair states that 'a high proportion of levy money (75%) is spent on marketing and communications, at home and overseas, in order to drive sales of Scottish red meat'.

While she doesn’t quantify what 75% equates to I can confidently say that it will be minute compared to the spend of other FMCG brands.

Speaking with one of my members, Iain Brown, Director at Campbells Prime Meats, he told me of the work that QMS are doing in the foodservice sector.

Working with Gordon Newlands from QMS they organised a chefs day bringing a wide range of customers including Murrayfield Stadium and Celtic FC along with several restaurant groups at which they presented Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, and Scottish Pork.

Many of you may be thinking that surely chefs should know about where the meat they are buying, cooking, and selling comes from. And yes, to a certain extent, that is true. However, on a bigger level, if they are truly to represent your skill as farmers and the processes along the supply chain in front of the consumer they need to re-enforce their understanding of the ‘brand values’ of Scotch.

Iain continued by telling me that 'the chefs were all given a presentation by QMS on the key elements of using product form Scotland followed by Campbells talking about their sourcing criteria'. This was followed by a butchery demonstration on the factory floor and the opportunity for chefs to speak with butchers about certain cuts and cut ideas before they all enjoyed a lunch cooked by Campbell’s in-house chef using some of the cuts that had been used in the demonstration.

I also spoke with Tom Gibson, director of business development at Quality Meat Scotland who told me that "We [QMS] are a cornerstone for communication and support within the food service industry. By providing crucial market data and facilitating business development opportunities for wholesalers, we promote growth and innovation.”

Clearly the work QMS have done with Campbells Prime Meats shows their support in action.

Tom also told me that 'the Scotch Beef Club and Brand Licensing Scheme underscores our commitment to enhancing the prominence of Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, and Specially Selected Pork in the food service market. With recent strides forward, like our Scotch Beef Club relaunch, we are recognising and promoting the importance of the sector and broadening the reach and impact of our brands'.

This level of engagement has worked so well with Campbells that they have just completed a contract supplying Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb to Murrayfield during the 6 Nations. With the support of their key suppliers 3500 QMS Farm Assured Scotch Lamb Rumps were used for the French game and 4500 QMS Farm Assured Scotch Beef Sirloin Eye portions were used at the game with England.

I have also been impressed with the quality of the QMS output. The refreshed Scotch Beef Club and its newsletters will provide confidence to all points of sales for the Scotch red meat brands whichever market they are supplying.

The economic and market data is among the best I have seen anywhere in the world, and I urge every livestock farmer along with the any business selling Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb be they based in Scotland, the rest of the UK or in overseas markets to subscribe to this information.

Campbells Prime Meats have also been working, along with QMS, with a local High school where pupils have been challenged using Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, or Scottish Pork to produce a burger that will be entered in a competition within the school, and which will ultimately be served in the dining hall.

The pupils visited Campbells, a local farm, and a restaurant as part of an overall education package to help them appreciate your hard work as farmers.

But I’ll leave the last word to Iain Brown: “QMS has a very strong foodservice connection where up to date information is sent weekly from marketing campaigns to market pricing.”

So please, when you look at your levy bill in April, try not to think of this a tax for which you get nothing but instead to see it as a benefit for which you receive huge market support and a very low price.