The Scottish Red Meat Resilience Group has called for more support to help its members access public procurement contracts and develop local supply chains
The group, a consortium of organisations chaired by Quality Meat Scotland, commissioned a position paper to lay out its concerns and said it would like to work alongside the public sector to influence improvements.
One of the biggest barriers facing Scottish red meat farmers is competing for local public procurement contracts, the paper stated.
The group said there are “significant policy and operational barriers” preventing Scottish red meat from being supplied to public bodies such as schools, hospitals and prisons, and that there is “still more work to do” to provide opportunities for locally sourced red meat and streamlining procurement processes.
The paper, Increasing opportunities for Scotch assured red meat within the public sector, said the biggest barriers facing red meat suppliers are “the demands of the procurement contracts themselves”, especially in terms of volume and distribution requirements.
It called for greater collaboration between local authorities and meat producers to support greater uptake of Scottish red meat.
It also called for more investment in public food, exploring the potential for integrated supply chains that enable local producers and smaller suppliers to fulfil contracts, and for public procurement processes to enable locally produced products to compete on a level playing field with imported meats.
Due to perceived health concerns over red meat consumption in recent years, the group recognised the caps on the quantities of red meat included in meals for those under care of local authorities, such as school children, hospital patients and those in care homes.
However, it argued that while red meat may be limited there is a missed opportunity to ensure the meat and products that are consumed originate from Scotch assured suppliers.
Scottish red meat producers currently generate more than £2bn a year to Scotland's economy and support around 50,000 jobs.
Around 10,000 farmers supply meat to around 20 abattoirs in Scotland, 189 abattoirs in England and 18 in Wales. Most of these abattoirs supply retailers, with a small number supplying high street butchers.
The most common points of sale for Scottish processors in 2019 were England and Wales, with two thirds of all revenues generated in these countries.
The position paper argued public-sector catering is a “powerful tool” towards delivering economic growth as well as helping shape the health of the nation.
It said: “The benefits of local supply chains have been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit uncertainties, with local sourcing allowing for speedier deliveries, greater transparency and more control over food standards, with the bonus of public-sector bodies/institutions proactively supporting the communities they serve.”