SIR, – I’m pleased Mr Rennie, of Fife in last week's edition confirmed Scotch Beef and Lamb’s assurance by purchasing some lamb from a well-known retailer, noting down the slaughter and cutting codes printed on the packaging and asking for its farm of origin or more likely farm of departure.

The retailer, one of the better heeled ones, kindly obliged. The source was, thankfully, Scottish. Good.

Considering the time, effort and costs expended on farm assurance schemes, I wouldn’t have expected anything less, but as I asked a few weeks ago, what was it exactly?

The lamb was from Ayrshire. Not being from that region of Scotland myself, if Ayrshire born and reared was it a Texel/Beltex type or did it originate up in Sutherland? Hence most likely a Cheviot? Or from Argyll, most likely a Blackie?

Was the consumer satisfied; would they like more information on which to base their buying decision and repeat buy?

You shouldn’t have to note down slaughter and cutting codes, ask the retailer, then wait a few days to get the answer. It should all be available on the label.

I was invited out to Sunday lunch a few years ago to a nice hotel in Perthshire (not the golfing one). It was a family gathering – I had to be invited, no option really – so, venison on the menu, good.

Asked the menu chap, can you tell me something about the venison please. Is it red or roe, shot or farmed? Stag or hind? Blank look from menu chappy.

My cousin who has spent her adult life in London asked, is there a difference, what does it matter?

It matters a lot, because for me it’s all about flavour. My preference is for stronger flavours, hence shot red stag venison, hill reared sheep and mature aged beef, not from a young animal. Others may have a different preference.

Mr Rennie responded to the original letter and drew our attention to the fact that much of the barley used in several malt whiskies comes from, dare I say it … outside Scotland!

I think this reinforces my point. The Scotch malt whisky industry has created a demand for its product to the extent that Scotland struggles to supply enough barley to meet it. It may also be down to the awful weather we have been having at harvest time.

The high worldwide demand for malt whisky was achieved using clever marketing and getting consumers world wide to buy into a bit of Scotland in a glass. Once tasted, 'I’ll have some more of (insert malt brand here), please'.

This was pioneered many years ago by a distiller with a stag’s head on the bottle who supported a famous piping competition.

Truthfully, few really ask 'where did the barley come from'? Though some may? Given the poor weather last few harvests, they can get it from the moon so long as there is enough malt made to be ready 10 years later.

The main components of malt whisky being time (a relative commodity, as per Mr Einstein), water 60% and barley juice 40%.

The water, freely and readily available from our good man above is certainly Scottish.

Back to the thrust of the original letter, which was about precise, accurate, truthful and clear labelling on red meats. The distillers are to be commended in marketing their product to a world now with a thirst for the 'cratur'.

We have done farm assurance to death, so we know it’s Scottish, but what was it exactly?

To answer that question our red meat sector must use a carcase grading system that differentiates and pays for eating quality. An industry prepared to label by breed, type and age which is incorporated into the grading system (see USDA grading system), but more importantly an industry willing to accept that once correctly labelled there will be winners and losers.

That means that some breed types will rise in price, while others will inevitably fall. All on the basis of supply and demand and it's applicable to both cattle and sheep.

Thank you to those who responded but ask yourself next time tucking into Scotch Beef and Lamb what was it exactly, wouldn’t you like to know?

A bit less Disgruntled Drover

(Name and address supplied).