2002 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS
Firstly I would like to congratulate Duncan Mackenzie on his successful year in office, we all know and appreciate the hard work that he has put in. Duncan has gone that extra mile on our behalf; he has visited every Regional meeting at least once and in the case of going to the Huntly meeting it mustn't have been worth his while going to bed when he got home!
I have been in the meat industry for 22 years, sixteen of them running my own small business in Leven High Street and I like others could never have foreseen the rollercoaster path that the meat industry would travel along. Rollercoasters can be terrifying to some but for others there can be an element of pleasure.
I do believe that our rollercoaster retail meat industry, which has been turned upside down and inside out in the last ten years, is now in a position to move forward and reap rewards for years of torment.
We have seen the retail sales figures bend back towards the independent. We have the assurance, even though it was hard earned, of Butchers Licensing and the general acceptance that the retail butcher is ahead of the rest of the food industry in having HACCP in place.
I feel passionately about our industry, I hate to hear unfair criticism of our trade. I no longer think that we have to continue proving ourselves to the outside world.
Here at Lundin Links golf is the name of the game, two miles down the road at Bayview, football is their game, I never could play golf and I live nearer Bayview so I am more of a football man.
I would like to kick around some comparisons between football and our Federation. Part of our constitution says that we should defend our trade and I think the Federation has always defended our position very well. They throw up an eleven man defence, usually bolstered by lots of experience and skilful players. They cope admirably, but some may argue that you dont win games by defending alone, you only limit the damage, so there may be times when we need to make tactical changes.
We may need to play a more ambitious 2-4-4; throw men forward and be more attack minded. We need to point out that Butchers Shops have moved on but what about the rest? The greatest number of food poisoning incidences emanates from the home and from eating out. We would welcome Food Standard Agency directives to insist on food hygiene training for all food handlers and creating better awareness of the problem to the general public. Certificated Food Hygiene courses for school leavers meet with our approval.
It is widely acknowledged that Butchers Licensing has brought the industry up to a very high standard, that standard has been reached by every licensed butchers business that trades today.
We all have achieved the standards that licensing set out, it should now be realised that in the interest of food safety it is time to move on. Just like our HACCP document we need review. Environmental Health officers believe that there is now no need for the annual licensing procedure. I too, believe that there is no need for this yearly license, we get regular food safety inspections, EHOs know our businesses and although every licensed butcher would wish to retain the licence this should be renewable three yearly in my opinion.
I will be making sure that the authorities know our views and pressing for this alteration to the licensing timetable.
NASA invented the HACCP system; the butchery industry has adopted it. The legislation coma which we heard about earlier will require rocket science to translate and implement. It is a pity Europe does not analyse its own hazards. The new definition of meat will confuse consumers as much as the little green men who are supposed to visit Bonnybridge. The sprouts in Brussels have out of this world proposals when what we really need is down to earth workable legislation.
One of my first duties will be to attend a seminar on QUID - Quantitative Ingredient Declaration. If ever there was a need to be a Federation members then this will be a quid well spent.
The Federation will be assessing and assisting compliance with this new legislation.
Training is another big responsibility, and we have a responsibility to look after our trainees, trade seems to have settled down and I think that a career in the meat industry is more attractive to young people now than it has been in the past.
When we do get the chance to introduce apprentices to the trade we have to ensure that we nurture them and guide them. It was felt in the past that young trainees seemed to be losing traditional butchery skills, the new Federation diploma was designed to reinstate them, to help produce butchers that can cope with traditional butchery work as well as practising more modern techniques.
The Federation Diploma is the flagship for the retail butcher in Scotland. It maps out the route to become a master craftsman; employable and valuable. We all need trained butchers to sustain our businesses. The Diploma is unique to the Federation and rightly so. The Federation intends to be at the cutting edge and the Diploma is the tangible evidence of our desire to retain traditional skills and address ever changing customer needs.
Many butchers have lamented the lack of suitable candidates to come on training. We all need to promote our industry to newcomers. The Federation is looking at joining forces with Careers Scotland to firstly highlight every vacancy in the Scottish Meat Trade on their website. Secondly, as a result of that, point out to prospective employees just how great the demand is for trained butchers and assistants and thirdly raise the profile of our craft industry with Careers Service, School advisors and potential employees.
We have shouted in the past about the lack of meat awareness in the school cirriculum but every employer has to maintain dialogue with these kind of people just as we get involved when we feel that the vegetarian lobby is too strong. This issue has never been addressed before but I feel that if the Federation can help here it will be very important.
We have to plant the seed about the benefits of training both to employer and employee, then the industry can harvest young dynamic butchers, capable of meeting the demands of a very demanding trade.
I firmly believe that we can tackle the challenges that lie before us, I think that Douglas and the office staff have a firm grasp of what our industry needs are but they need continual dialogue with the member. Not everyone attends meetings. As the sign behind me says the Federation is "Your Friend in the Business", so we need everyone to talk with this friend and if someone, someplace, is sitting in the back shop solving all the problems of the meat industry, telling people that the answers to problems are obvious dont sit and preach to the staff. Dont sit and tell the apprentices, lift the phone, come along to meetings and tell us, then maybe the Federation can work together to use these good ideas.
A great part of our future is in our own hands, if we pull together in partnership with the Federation. If members can help by sparing the time to come along to regional meetings, executive meetings and by sharing their ideas we can achieve much more. We are only as strong as our membership.
Ladies and gentlemen, past and honorary presidents, distinguished guests I look forward to hearing your hopes and opinions about the meat industry, I will endeavour to do my best by you, and repay the faith that you have put in me, thank you.