Farmer Focus: Engage with shoppers as leaders fail the test

My “harvest” came early this year. This is when I sell off any surplus fat cattle we don’t use in the shop. It normally happens in late July and August, but it’s already nearly over.  

I am starting to worry a little about keeping enough fat cattle to supply the shop, which is still extremely busy. 

I feel the improvement has been down to three factors. Cattle came out of the winter in better condition, they were better cattle and matched my killing pattern, and grass growth has been phenomenal.  

See also: Opinion: Grass-fed beef has so much to recommend it

I was about to type “luckily the fat price is a lot better” and my hackles started to rise. Why is my cattle business and profitability based on the word “luckily”? Why is our industry so reliant on the whim of the market?

How can anyone run a business never knowing if the product they produce will have a realistic value at the end? I had great hope for the post-lockdown/Brexit era when home-produced food would have a moral, ethical and environmental value. 

While there is no doubt our shop is reaping quite considerable benefit from this thinking, it looks like our supermarkets and government haven’t got the message.  

They want to source the cheapest meat from wherever they can in the world and turn a blind eye to production standards in these countries. It’s a very lazy and morally corrupt person/politician who thinks they can just export their conscience.

We need to make sure that the market drives this by not buying these imported products, and we have a duty to help influence this by promoting our wonderful British produce at every opportunity.

We must take every chance we get to engage with public and extol the virtues of what we do. Don’t chase the public from your walkways and farms. Don’t see them as the enemy – engage with them.

Our industry must accept that politicians won’t protect our children from these products and we need to help ourselves by getting British people to take pride in lifting our wonderful British product from the shelf and putting it in their shopping baskets. Engage, Engage, Engage!

Michael Shannon finishes 150 head of mostly Angus beef stores each year and runs 280 Scotch Mules on a 100ha forage-only enterprise near Biggar, Lanarkshire, as well as free-range turkeys for Christmas. Meat is sold through his online business and farm shop Damn Delicious, with surpluses sold deadweight.