Viewpoint by Kate Rowell, chair of Quality Meat Scotland

ALL OUR lives have been turned upside down over the past few weeks, but in many ways things on the farm are the same as ever.

I’m right in the middle of the busiest spell of lambing and, although there are always ups and downs, this year things seem to be going well.

After a wet February, the weather turned just in time and things have dried up nicely making outside work much more pleasant. It’s been a bit colder than normal here in the Borders which means that grass hasn’t grown quite as quickly as last year, but the higher temperatures last weekend spurred it on and provided some growth for our ewes and lambs to roam on when they leave the lambing shed.

We haven’t started calving cows yet, but the heifers are well through and the calves are doing well. With no extra concentrates at all and wintered outside, I’m really pleased with the condition of all the cattle – there seems to be no shortage of milk in either the heifers or ewes.

The cancellation of exams means I’ve got plenty of young assistants, both willing and not so willing! I count my blessings every day that we live where we do and are still able to get out into the fresh air, with only an occasional passing gamekeeper or the postman to wave to – from a safe distance of course.

Much like myself, many of us across the country are pressing on in what is one of the most important periods in the farming community’s recent history. Our integral role in feeding the nation, keeping shelves stocked and livelihoods in business has been brought to the fore, and has brought challenges as well as opportunities with it.

In the coming days and weeks, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) is continuing to promote our world class brands – Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork – in the following ways.

The 'Make It' Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb campaign, which many of you will already be familiar with, remains focused on promoting red meat as part of a healthy, balanced diet. The campaign will be running nationally across Scotland through April and May helping to inspire millions of shoppers on making sustainable, healthy choices that support local businesses.

Key events, like Easter, are perhaps made more significant in light of current events. With this in mind, we will be reaching 1.4m adults in Scotland through a media partnership with the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, to help readers celebrate Easter with a difference through a series of Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb recipes to be enjoyed virtually with family or friends.

We’re also engaging with well-known chefs, food and drink influencers and bloggers to produce a new ‘At Home With’ series of videos, recipes and useful cooking tips and information. This activity is aimed at driving category awareness for beef, lamb and pork products and will be seeded across QMS’s consumer-facing digital channels.

Another exciting project I encourage you to tune into during April is ‘Farm Kid Diaries’ – a video series to connect country kids with their city counterparts to help bridge the urban rural divide. With growing awareness among young people about where their food is coming from, now is the time to share our stories.

If you have a young family and would like to film your own farm diary, please share it with the hashtag #FarmKidDiaries and tag the QMS social channels.

I’d like to assure you that we are constantly searching for and progressing ideas that encourage industry collaboration during this time, including support for butchers and processors as their businesses too face sudden changes.

This includes press releases and robust activity on the QMS Scotch Kitchen social media channels, which are also highlighting the role of farmers, processors, auctioneers and butchers during the pandemic. These messages are also communicated through a e-newsletter database of 32,000 consumers.

I know many of you have been extremely concerned at seeing Polish meat on the shelves of some supermarkets, and rightly so.

Balance of trade data provides the estimates that UK beef production only amounts to 80% of total beef consumed in the UK every year. There is then a basic need for the UK to import beef to meet consumer demand, of which historically Ireland has supplied between 70-75% and Poland less than 3%.

This beef will have been used in manufacturing and food services and has now been redirected into High Street outlets to meet increased demand that UK supplies alone cannot meet.

I hope the above goes some way in explaining how QMS is supporting the national endeavour in protecting supply chains by encouraging consumers to shop local and sustainably.

While there will be significant challenges over the coming months, resilience and adaptability is written into our history. How we respond to this crisis will shape the future of the industry and I’ve already seen some great examples of flexibility and innovation.

Farming has always been at the heart of Scotland’s communities, and our role is clearer now more than ever.


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Thanks – and stay safe