Dunfermline Athletic


Stuart Christie of Christie Meats in Hardgate, West Dunbartonshire was elected President of SFMTA on 30th November 2008

Stuart Christie (left) and outgoing President Jamie Chapman

Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the 90th Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders.

My first task as President is a very pleasant one – to present Past President Jamie Chapman with his President’s Medal. Jamie is the 3rd generation and 4th member of the Chapman family to hold this post. A remarkable achievement. Over the past 2 years he has led the association with dedication and professionalism and he will be a hard act to follow. Thank you, Jamie.

On looking over the names of the past presidents I saw another Christie, president from 1938 to 1940. Tom Christie came from Kirkcaldy, and to the best of my knowledge was no relation. The issues of the day were somewhat removed, too: cooling of meat in abattoirs and centralising slaughtering. They also discussed imported meat, but could not agree that agriculture was in ‘an unfavourable condition’ and required support. Changed days now.

Tom Christie chaired the emergency committee and finances committee and was a member of the parliamentary committee, propaganda committee and technical education committee. Oh, and in those days there were 8 members on the hide committee.

During my period in office I would like to forge closer ties with farmers. I come from a livestock background and I know that too many farmers perceive butchers as creaming off an unfair amount of the profit that comes from an animal. Not all, but some, believe that they breed, feed and nurture a beast for over three years before they receive any return from it. In their eyes the butcher buys the beast and in a little over three weeks receives his return. They fail to realise that we require more labour per animal processed than they do, that we have rates to pay on every square inch of our premises, substantial utility bills, cleansing and waste collection charges, and in larger licensed premises Meat Hygiene Service charges to boot. Greater understanding of the processes, objectives and constraints of both sectors would seem to be mutually beneficial.

At the instigation of SFMTA, the Scottish Meat Industry Liaison Group was formed some years ago. This was a meeting of farmers, butchers, meat wholesalers, auctioneers, livestock removers and the NFU. It met about 2 to 3 times a year, and in my opinion was a good way to discuss, and hopefully sort out, our differences and problems. Sadly it has not met for some considerable time, although not without some considerable lobbying from us. I would like, with the help of QMS, to restart these meetings as soon as practical.

Since 2001 we have had foot and mouth, avian flu, e.coli, foot and mouth again and now blue tongue to contend with, not to mention the worst summer for many years, with some harvest still lying in fields in November. Farming has always been a precarious way of life and no doubt always will be. Our government does not do a lot for it, and I think that is good reason why we must all work more closely together. Whether that is through the Scottish Meat Industry Liaison Group, ourselves, the NFU or the farming press and Quality Meat Scotland , I think the stronger and more vocal we are the more we will achieve. I would value your comments and suggestions on how this might best be done.

Like Past President Chapman I am a great believer in the livestock auction system. There you can choose your own animals and bid what you think they are worth. It allows the farmer to sell his stock, the butcher to satisfy his needs and supports the local abattoir and wider local economy. The supermarkets don’t like this system and what they perceive as its weaknesses – price, quality and size volatility – we can see as its strengths. It allows us to demonstrate that we buy locally, that we choose what we want and that we are seeking to reduce food miles and the resulting ‘carbon footprint’.

I’m not denying meat wholesalers the vital role that they play in supplying us all – but then they’ve used the market system for years and demonstrated its strengths. I hope to instigate a ‘buddying’ scheme where butchers who use the market system take along butchers who don’t. They may not feel that the system is for them, but it will give them a knowledge of the system their suppliers use that they can pass on to their customers. It’s also a good day out and can perhaps be extended to other functions of our trade.

While our industry may have its problems and challenges, we can be secure in the knowledge that as an organisation we are doing our very best to equip our trade with the skills and the staff for tomorrow. In Scottish Meat Training and its seven staff we have the best organisation for training young butchers in the United Kingdom , so much so that as you heard in the Training and Development Report we have exported our training expertise to develop a strong presence in Northern Ireland . I would urge any butcher with an apprentice not currently in the system to sign up to it. It will help their training immensely and also help to strengthen the Federation.

In our convenors we have a wealth of knowledge: Alan Kennedy on livestock, Jamie Chapman as treasurer, Beaton Lindsay on Membership and Development and now Duncan McKenzie on Promotions. Every month these chaps keep us informed of all the latest news, ideas and prices that affect us all.

It is a pity more butchers can’t come to the meetings of the Federation to hear these reports ‘live’ as I’m sure they would gain a lot from them. Fortunately for those who can’t attend they can always consult our monthly newsletter. I call it a newsletter, but under the editorship of Douglas ‘Beaverbrook’ Scott it has taken on the dimensions of a Sunday supplement, thankfully without the adverts for stairlifts and bath chairs, but with all the information the trade could require laid out in a professional and informative manner. Thanks must go to Douglas for such a good publication.

We are pleased to list amongst our ranks 21 corporate members, who for a small fee have access to our newsletter and membership lists. I should like to try and increase this class of membership. There are a lot of businesses out there who would benefit from us as an audience and we need to make them aware of that.

Over the years the number of butcher shops has decreased considerably, we are all only too aware of that fact. But it’s not only butchers who have been affected, fishmongers for instance have all but disappeared, and greengrocers are not too far behind. The culprit? The supermarkets. But they are perhaps best described as the weapon in the attack rather than the perpetrator. They couldn’t have flourished if they didn’t offer something the consumer wanted. However, their size and power have now made them the dominant force in retailing: they are capable of dictating to their suppliers both prices and payment terms and of running promotions where the supplier foots the bill. But what they don’t have, and what we have in spades, is professionalism and a dedication to our trade.

We buy the best and we butcher the best. We mature it longer, cut it better and present it with pride. We don’t gas-flush pack, sling it on a refrigerated shelf and make the option to the consumer quite clear – take what we sell or go somewhere else. For a long time the consumer felt either that going somewhere else was either too much trouble or merely meant going to another supermarket to be faced with the same prospect. That is no longer the case.

We as a trade are now much more visible. The shopper is now much more aware and interested in where their food comes from, how it was prepared, and what they might do with it. We are the perfect people to tell them, because supermarket shelves aren’t very good at answering questions.

Lastly, I would like to thank Douglas, Bruce and all the staff in Perth for the hard work that they do and advice that they give to any butcher who calls them. Their efforts are vital to making our Federation work and demonstrate very clearly the benefits membership brings.

President Stuart welcomed NFMFT President Philip Edge

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