Farmer Focus: Quality meat is our future

We had the last meeting of our Graze Plus group. I meet up with 14 others who are just as obsessed with all things grass.

Luckily, the others are all fantastic, forward-thinking farmers, so I learn a lot.

Conversations are always frank and open, but also humorous. These groups deliver both technical and social help, and can be of great benefit in what can be a very lonely existence.

See also: Farmer Focus: Swedes might force out fodder beet

A few pals and I got together to visit each other’s fodder beet crops. We visited three crops and it was evident that the guys in the East can grow some pretty amazing crops.

I think fodder beet is better suited to coastal areas that are not prone to frost, and I am still extremely sceptical whether it has a place on my farm when I see how easy it is to grow swedes.

Lastly, I attended the excellent Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) “Meat the Future” conference in Glasgow.

One of the highlights was a talk by meat scientist Frederic Leroy, who gave a brilliant insight into why people’s buying behaviour has changed.

He said people were using “eating less meat” as a way to increase their social standing.

Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers was singing my song when he said: “If we stay in the commodity market, we might as well pack up now.” This is a view I have held for a long time.

Livestock sustainability consultant Jude Capper presented figures that show the carbon footprint of Scottish livestock in 2017 was down 15% from 1998’s total.  

Alan Clarke and his team at QMS should be commended for organising such a diverse and brilliant line-up of speakers and for delivering such a positive message.

QMS head of marketing Lesley Cameron explained how the association plans to promote our products.

Her very uplifting presentation made everyone feel good and think “yes, we have a future”.

But us farmers must play our part too. As the Australian meat quality expert Rob Polkinghorne told us:

“There is no point in telling the consumer that “Scotch” is the best and then delivering a poor eating experience.”

We need to supply a quality product.

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.