NFU call to get tough on tracking imported meat

CHANGES are needed to tighten up systems which keep track of imported meat, NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said this week.

In his presidential address at the union’s centenary AGM in St Andrews on Monday, Mr Miller declared: “Scotch beef’s reputation is founded on quality and our brand is synonymous with roasts and steaks. However, we need to sell the whole of a beef carcase and there is ample scope for minced Scotch beef to fill the manufacturing requirement for burgers and sausages.

“Restaurant giant McDonald’s are proud to fulfil all the burger requirement for their Scottish stores with Scottish beefburgers – and that is a clear message to others in the retail and catering sectors on what can be achieved.”

The Stow livestock farmer’s defence of the Scottish beef industry comes in the wake of national outrage caused by the discovery of horse meat in beefburgers and other processed foods.

“The ongoing scandal is becoming increasingly frustrating for Scottish farmers who believe their hard work and reputation for quality is being undermined by potential illegality in some supply chains, wildly-inaccurate labelling of processed products and a developing mistrust within the food supply chain.

“The Scotch label means the animal has been born, bred, reared, slaughtered and processed in Scotland, with every step of the chain subject to assurance and audit.”

He said the “damaging scandal” had exposed long supply chains stretching from Scottish supermarkets via continental producers to eastern European abattoirs.

“The longer the chain, the more difficult the challenge in auditing that process. However, it is a process where more robust checks and balances must be rapidly introduced if we are to avoid having our Scottish industry undermined in this manner in the future.

“For retailers and manufacturers, there is a clear opportunity for them to shorten those chains and give Scottish producers the chance to meet all their requirements.”

A spokesperson for NFU Scotland said: “The union accepts that tightening up of the audit trail in Scotland may be appropriate, but wholesale changes to the flawed audit process for imported processed products are urgently required.”

Other speakers at the two-day AGM included David Heath, Defra minister for food and farming, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for rural affairs, and Scottish MEP Alyn Smith.

First Minister Alex Salmond, who attended the AGM on Monday, announced that the Scottish Government would give £50,000 to agricultural charity RSABI to help farmers and farm workers in hardship following the effects of last year’s bad weather.

RSABI chief executive Dr Maurice Hankey said: “Every day we are speaking to farmers who are facing difficulties, both on the farm and in their households. They are asking if we can help. This funding will enable RSABI to put more financial support into the homes of these farmers to help themselves and their families keep going until better conditions prevail.”

RSABI’s confidential telephone helpline is Gatepost on 0300 111 4166.

z Also at this week’s AGM, Mr Miller was returned unopposed as president for a further two years and LIlliesleaf farmer Rob Livesey relinquished chairing the union’s livestock committee to become one of two vice-presidents. There will be an interview with Mr Livesey in next week’s Southern.