Scotland’s beef and lamb producers are looking to move to a 'healthier footing' as the country begins to look beyond the impacts of Covid-19.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland believes that 'resetting and restarting' after the crisis will provide significant opportunities for Scottish farmers, crofters and growers, and has identified key steps and actions that each production sector needs to set it on the right course For those producing beef and lamb, the priorities are:

• Work with other farming unions and levy bodies on market impact;

• Stress to all the major retailers the need to support domestic production – and express disappointment at imports;

• Demand price transparency in the red meat sector;

• Support campaigns to increase demand for premium cuts such as roasting joints and steaks to address carcase balance problems;

• Renew the focus and activity on enhanced country of origin labelling (COOL) on processed beef and lamb products;

• Work with Quality Meat Scotland, Scotland Food and Drink and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry to develop export market opportunities.

Livestock committee chairman, Jimmy Ireland, who keeps beef cattle and sheep at Darvel in Ayrshire, said the opportunity and need was there to move the industry to a much healthier footing than pre-2020.

“At the outset, the market disruption caused by Covid-19 had a clear impact on the beef market, largely due to the loss of sale of steaks and high value cuts that have traditionally gone to the hospitality sector.

“NFUS Livestock committee called for immediate promotion on beef in response to the market situation. The QMS ‘Make it happen’ campaign boosted the awareness the Scotch beef and lamb PGI at the right time. As people have experienced lockdown, they have been brushing up on home cooking skills and learning more first-hand about the quality and versatility of our fantastic beef and lamb," reported Mr Ireland.

“A long-running priority for us has been the need to enhance rules around country of origin labelling. We are keen to see more action from government supporting us in this, helping to ensure that those consumers who want to buy local can do so more easily.

“Early on in the lockdown period, we wrote to all major retailers regarding the discovery of foreign beef on sale on supermarket shelves," he added. "We highlighted the need for them to be supporting the Scottish industry at this time by retailing locally produced beef and lamb which is being produced to some of the highest welfare standards in the world.

“While some retailers have consistently supported Scotch beef and lamb, we remain very disappointed that some retailers are not stocking sufficient volumes of Scotch and we will continue to push them on provenance commitments.”