PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS - AGM 2010
"Before going any further into my presidency however, I would firstly like to pay tribute to the outgoing President Stuart Christie. Stuart has been one of the most far travelled Presidents that this Federation has ever had. He has represented us at numerous Federation meetings as far apart as Castle Douglas and Lerwick. Indeed Stuart has actually been in most areas twice during his two year term in office.
"We have despatched him to Kirkwall, Inverness, Aberdeen , Oldmeldrum, Oban, Dundee, St Boswells, Kilmarnock and Queensferry and of course he has also been a regular attender in Glasgow . We have even sent him to Coventry and Bradford where he attended National Federation conferences.
Stuart has taken his responsibilities very seriously meeting other industry leaders and representing the Federation at the Royal Highland Show, at the SAMW and QMS conferences and in meetings with the Food Standards Agency and Quality Meat Scotland . He even made time to attend local association social events.
"But Stuart didn’t just go to these places, he made important contributions, spoke to members about common problems and even visited shops in places like Wick and Elgin .
"His guiding and chairing of Executive Meetings has had the business completed efficiently and fairly within two hours each time and he has been constantly in touch with the office in Perth to oversee the work of both the Members services side and Training Services.
"I hope you can gather by now that Stuart is going to be an extremely hard act to follow. He thoroughly deserves this Past President’s medal that we have had re-gilted especially for the occasion. Stuart you can rightly wear this with pride in the knowledge that it represents a job very well done."
Pointing to the chain of office, Billy continued:- "This gong is one that is a real privilege for me to wear. I thank you for allowing me, a butcher from Islay to become your President. Even more so I am delighted to be the first islander to wear this chain and as you will appreciate I know all about voyages through turbulent waters.
"Our industry is constantly tossed about with waves that rock our boat. � But butchers continue to keep their heads above water even in the face of the inundation of supermarkets, rafts of regulation and the tide of economic recession.
"Riding out the storm is not easy and in certain quarters some more successful than others. � Those performing best do hail from areas of the country possibly less badly affected by redundancies than others.
"Trade has, and always will, change. Customers needs and expectations change but where butchers adapt to change, the better their results.
"Yes service, value and quality are important and we must continually outstrip our competitors by paying great importance to this. Personal service is a distinct point of difference and craft butchers would ignore this at their peril. Value for money means being on top of your game, operating efficiently, minimising waste and maximising the offer to customers. But all of that is worthless if the quality is lacking.
As butchers we need to communicate to our customers just how we go about sourcing the quality meat that they return for. How many discerning buyers around the auction ring or from local specialist beef finishers actually tell their customers what why and where they buy?
"Existing customers may already know that; they take it as a given but do potential customers know anything about where a butcher’s meat comes from.
"In this respect I am especially pleased with the Federation’s progress in partnership with the Scottish Office / to come up with a scheme to allow our members to display the name of the farm that is supplying them with their beef while complying with the Beef Labelling Act. The co-operation of Martin Morgan and his team at the Scottish Government in Edinburgh has been very welcome and helpful in creating a special verification scheme that our Scottish Meat Training assessors will be able to operate.
"An Ecoli outbreak in 2005 at John Tudor in South Wales has led to demands from the Food Standards Agency for higher standards. Rich coming from an organisation that was responsible for overseeing that the standards at Tudor’s abattoir and plant were met. The impact of the second Pennington Report has clearly brought a return of the headache of HACCP.
At the time of Butchers Licensing in the year 2000, butchers were asked to devise their own bespoke HACCP plans. We did all this, attained all the necessary food hygiene training for our staff / and upgraded cleaning and hand washing facilities.
Now ten years on we hear that is not enough and the goalposts have moved. HACCP plans have now to be standardised so that EHOs can understand them.
"Butchers are law abiding and continue to strive to comply with regulations. In the interests of avoiding a Pennington 3, there has been widespread acceptance that separate machines should be used for slicing and packing ready to eat and raw meats.
"Turning to our supplies. It is important to support the traditional parts of the chain. The
Federation will continue to encourage its members to support the auction system to continue prime stock sales and butchers to buy direct from local farmers, encouraging short journeys for livestock and the retention where viable of local abattoirs.
"The vision projected in Brian Pack’s Review launched earlier this month in this very city, aligns itself with our need to see quality livestock produced in Scotland from the suckler herd.
"I was delighted to hear it proposed that farmers and crofters in the Less Favoured Areas – and that 85% of Scotland’s land mass – would receive a low area based payment, a top-up fund available based on labour employed and support for every calf and lamb born on their farms. These moves I would hope would go a long way to ensuring more plentiful suppliers in the future.
"The days of ‘slipper farmers’ are limited and it is perfectly correct that support should be directed towards those that get their boots dirty.
"Abattoir costs require continual scrutiny and we applaud the cost saving moves that we have seen in the Meat Hygiene Service. But that does not mean that there is not room for further efficiencies to be made. Unnecessary costs must be eliminated if Scotland is to remain competitive and if a degree of independence is to be retained in the livestock industry.
"Changes to the charging regime threaten the existence of smaller abattoirs and all the ideals of local supplies using local facilities and local people will disappear should costs become too great for abattoir operators.
"Scottish Meat Training has a crucial role to play in protecting another unique attribute of the craft butcher sector and that is our skills. Consumers have seen through the supermarket meat counters where characters dressed up as butchers struggle to fulfil requests for even the simplest of boning out tasks. We have a competitive advantage as long as we can retain the craft skills where our butchers can really cut it. Boning, trimming, seaming, producing cuts roasts and products. Knowing their meat, being able to satisfy customer requests using traditional skills used in a caring way to satisfy customer requests / traditional skills used in a caring way to satisfy today’s consumer.
"As we have heard reported by Sandra that Scottish Meat Training have in excess of 250 trainees working towards meat industry modern apprenticeship qualifications, a further 107 are registered on craftsman certificates and 173 people have attended courses run by SMT in the last 12 months. That totals some 530 employees which in itself is very good, very forward thinking and very healthy for our industry. That said we still know that it is hard to enlist trained staff in certain areas of the country and this figure could have been higher had a greater number of suitable candidates been available.
"We are particularly pleased that our European Social Fund backed projects – Cut it in Scotland and Cutting it in Scotland – slightly different names for the Lowlands and Uplands area and the Highlands and Islands area – but both essentially doing the same thing - that is building craft skills in the industry and providing important support in business development.� The Federation’s Craftsman Certificate has become the first in our sector within the UK to be credit rated and this recognition from SCQF is a great endorsement on this certificate.
"It feels at times that dark clouds are constantly gathering but I hope that you will agree that there is plenty to be proud of, plenty to be confident and optimistic about.� So as I embark upon this voyage as the captain at the wheel - President of this esteemed Federation I feel that there are hands both on my Executive Committee and in the office at Perth who can all pull together and steer us on a positive course for the future.
"I look forward to serving you during my term in office and will do that to the best of my abilities."