Shoppers put trust in local butchers

THE scandal about horse meat in supermarket products has led to a upturn in trade for the traditional butchers of Galloway.

In Wigtown, butcher Steven Cronnie said that he had noticed that his trade had picked up since Monday but said it was “early days” and he would have a better idea at the end of the month if his turnover had increased.

Stephen said; “Hopefully, people will come back to their local butcher as all the meat we sell is farm-assured. We have total traceability on all animals slaughtered right back to the farm of origin.

“We try to keep things as traditional as possible here. We can guarantee the product we sell is 100 per cent beef or lamb and we have strict labelling regulations for ready meals and we have inspectors round to test them every now and again.”

Kenny Owen, of Owen and Sons in Newton Stewart, said: “In the past couple of weeks things have picked up. People are coming back because they know what they are going to get. You can buy Scottish beef or lamb with confidence from your butcher as all beef sold can be traced.

“Butchers make their prod­ucts on the premises and the meat will be perfectly safe as what it says they are on the label is exactly what they are.”

Stranraer butcher Ian Jack, from Alex Jack Butchers in Stranraer, echoed those sentiments. “We have definitely noticed an upturn in trade since the start of this week,” he said.

Alistair Hall, from J Hall & Sons in Kirkcudbright, added: “We have been slightly busier. My advice to customers is that we buy local beef and then get it slaughtered. We make all our haggis, black pudding and sausages on the premises. We don’t buy in any manufactured products.”

Butcher Jimmy Ballard from Castle Douglas said his shop had also been much busier. He added: “Your local butcher knows exactly where the meat comes from. He makes to products for sale himself and he knows what’s in them. If a customer is not sure about anything, then ask your butcher for advice.”

Galloway MP Russell Brown expressed his anger at the slow reaction of the UK and Scottish governments to the current horse meat scandal.

Mr Brown said: “I’ve been

contacted by some local farmers

who are concerned about the

growing scandal over contam­inated processed meat products. They have emphasised that contamination took place post-farm gate, and farmers have no control over, so this isn’t a farming issue. However, they are understandably concerned that it will impact on the whole reputation of the food industry if consumer confidence is dented.”

“Farmers expressed their frustration that had they been involved in any food safety breach, the authorities would rightly have jumped on them straight away. However, when multinational supermarkets and their overseas production sites are involved, the UK government seems reluctant to take action and there has so far been no mention of prosecutions. There is a growing feeling that the UK and Scottish governments have been slow off the mark in dealing with this issue.

“My message to local people is simple: if you can, buy local. There’s a common strand going through this of imported products and people know that if they purchase local produce, not only are they supporting local businesses, they are buying high quality products.”

Chris Mallon, director of the National Beef Association, said: “There is a supposed commitment to reduction of the carbon footprint and the support of local producers by retailers yet some of our processed food has travelled more than Phileas Fogg.

“British beef supplied by British farmers is a quality prod­uct with a traceable life history and, importantly, is a local product, produced by a mixture of the British environment and 
generations of farmer dedication.”

NFUS regional chairman Andrew McCornick added: “The Scottish Quality Assured label is all the guarantee that the consumer needs. Scottish farmers are jumping through hoops and loops to get that labelling on their product.

“Scottish farmers are doing nothing wrong but they have no control once the meat gets to the processors.”

This week Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Loch­head outlined plans to support the industry in Scotland.

It was announced that a £1 million campaign will be funded by the Scottish government to strengthen the Scotch Beef label, develop new markets and support marketing of the Scotch brands – beef, lamb and pork.

Mr Lochhead told the NFU Scotland annual general meeting that both the cattle and sheep sectors required support to help them maximise the image of the Scotch brands to make the most of available opportunities.

A wider study – across the meat sector – has also been commissioned to help better understand the market. Among other things, the survey will look at what’s on sale in Scotland and which retailers provide the best support for producers.

Mr Lochhead said: “Scotch is a world renowned brand and products with that label are among the best quality that can be found anywhere. Consumers have confidence in the brand and it is important that, in the current climate, when people are looking very carefully at the provenance of their food, that we continue to build our good reputation both at home and overseas and continue to capitalise on new market opportunities.”

Jim McLaren, chairman of 
Quality Meat Scotland, wel-
comed the funding announce-
ment by the Scottish govern­ment. “Our industry is abso­lutely committed to traceability and our farmers were global pioneers of the quality assurance which now underpins Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork.

“This funding will allow Qual­ity Meat Scotland to build on our existing work behind the brands, including ensuring consumers fully understand the traceability and quality assurance behind the Scotch brand.

“Our work on behalf of the 
industry to encourage con­sumers to look behind the label has resulted in strong awareness and confidence in Scotch Beef, with recent independent research indicating that 87 per cent of Scots trust the brand.

“This puts the beef industry in Scotland in a strong position at times like this and the fact that consumers are taking more and more interest in the provenance of their meat can only be a good thing for the future health of our industry.”

n Editorial – page 14
n Farming – page 17