2019 President`s AddressTuesday, 26th Nov 2019
It’s been a quick but interesting first year in my role as President.
We’ve had a well-documented change in personnel at the top of the Federation, with the retiral of Douglas Scott and the instatement of Gordon King as his successor, and the change has been as far as I’m concerned, very successful with Gordon very quickly bringing his own personality and style to the role.
We have also had a very successful Trade Show this year, with the Butchers Wars element of the show being a resounding hit. This is clearly a very theatrical set up with the entrants demonstrating great display skills, which was enthusiastically received by all those that attended the Trade Show. These Wars were well reported and have been the subject of much social media interest, and I believe the format is to be copied in Ireland next year. Whilst we cannot claim credit for its inception, we can claim to be the first northern hemisphere country to see its potential and build on the success seen in Australia where it was first introduced. We have been invited by the Australian butchers to join them next year in Sidney to watch their Butchers Wars, and Gordon King is trying to tie this into a family holiday. I’m trying to get agreement from the Federation that if I was to join Gordon on the trip, that this is a justifiable business expense, however, my fellow committee members and the federation staff appear to be somewhat hesitant to sign this off! I’m not hopeful of being in Australia for this event.
In February, I joined an organised trip of Ireland, enjoying the hospitality of Irish butchers from Dublin, to Limerick, to Cork and back to Dublin. It was a very interesting trip, and one I would recommend to all members should the opportunity arise – if only for the Guinness!
March took me to Modena in Italy, with Steven Strachan (Strachan Craft Butchers) and Cavan Breen (Scott Brothers) to take part in a cutting and displaying demonstration at the Milan Butcher Show, and despite it being a long trip to make for what was essentially a butchery demonstration at a Trade fair, we were incredibly well received and looked after.
What I did learn from both these trips, and some of the personal holiday time I have spent abroad this last year, is that despite all European countries being under the same rules, we in Britain seem hell bent on taking the interpretation to the extreme, whilst many of our European neighbours appear to have an attitude of how best to make these same rules work for them.
It is the duty of the Federation to take up these issues with the Scottish Government on your behalf, so that we have a say in the shaping of our industry. We are in contact with Food Standards Scotland, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Food and Drink Federation, Quality Meat Scotland, Scottish Food and Drink and many more groups on a regular basis to make sure that we get the best for our members.
My involvement in all of the above has prevented me from the one thing that I had promised myself to do in this role, and that was to visit as many butchers as I could in as many corners of Scotland as I could, but that will be my ambition for 2020. Those that I have met this past year, have been nothing other than extremely kind and generous to me, and have displayed a passion and knowledge of the industry that is truly remarkable, and I realise that if this is what we greet our customers with, then butchery across Scotland is in a very good place. Our supermarket competitors cannot deliver customer service to these levels, and they struggle to be able to match our much shorter supply chains meaning that we can consistently deliver quality tasting meat, week after week. We need to be shouting about these USP’s, especially when this is now becoming more important to consumers. We have on our doorstep, some of the finest animal raising farmland in the UK, and we need to shout loudly about it, but we also need the farmers to provide us with the product that our customers demand – grass fed traditional breeds, not “just meat”. There is an art and a commitment to what good farmers do, and there is art and commitment in our craft that can produce cuts of meat that can blow our competitors away. No amount of spices and sauces cover up poor or average raw ingredients. The benefits of quality meat, raised sustainably with a low carbon footprint from a local supply chain is something worth screaming about.
If what goes around, comes around, then the High Streets of Scotland will recover, and butchers can be at the heart of the revival, simply through great customer service and supplying consistently high quality products. It may not happen quickly, but there is a distinct wind of change in the way people are thinking about their eating habits and their shopping habits. Eating better meat and supporting the local economy is now very high on consumers lists, and we need to make sure we take advantage of this. The Vegan argument is starting to experience scientifically backed counter arguments; a healthy balanced diet which includes red meat is high on virtually every Personal trainers social media platforms, and I’m constantly hearing how everything in moderation is the future to a healthy lifestyle. Parents, government and the anti-meat lobby won’t be able to ignore the gathering pace of this change and hopefully, we butchers can be central to supplying exactly what well educated consumers want – consistently high quality red meat as part of a healthy balanced diet.
I look forward to my next year in this chain, and hopefully, some of what I’m hoping for comes true and we start to enjoy a smoother ride than we’ve experienced in the last couple of years.