T. 07768 654955 E. scott.walker@scconsultancy.uk


Update on the FSS Meat Industry Charge Rates for 2024/25

We find ourselves at a pivotal moment regarding the impending increase in FSS meat industry charge rates for the fiscal year 2024/25.  The 20% surge in the Official Veterinarian (OV) rate and the 17% hike in the Meat Hygiene Inspector (MHI) rate pose significant challenges to our industry given the current economic climate within which it is operating.

In our recent dialogue with Jenni Minto, Minister for Public Health, we outlined three primary requests:


  1. Comprehensive transparency regarding the costs associated with the charge rates for 2024/25.
  2. Consideration for augmenting the Ministerial discount for 2024/25 to counteract FSS cost escalations.
  3. Postponement of the implementation of the new charge rates until resolutions are reached on points 1 and 2.

While FSS has furnished us with a more detailed breakdown of the costs comprising the 2024/25 charge rates, the unresolved issue of the Ministerial discount persists.  As the first invoices will soon be issued, we have once again reached out to the Minister, urgently urging a delay in the implementation of these new charge rates.

Considering that a significant portion of the rise in this year’s charge rates can be attributed to Scottish Government policies, including the forthcoming implementation of the 35-hour workweek from October 1st, 2024, and the pay award increases spanning from 2023 to 2025, it’s important to recognise that these factors are beyond the control of our industry. As they do not mirror the commercial realities within meat plants, it becomes imperative to seek additional support through this year’s Ministerial discount funding.

In the face of escalating costs, our customers rightfully expect us to explore every avenue to mitigate these increases through cost-saving measures.  We maintain steadfastly that any cost escalations in FSS charge rates should be met with corresponding efforts to offset them.  It is our firm conviction that the burden of increased costs for official controls should not unilaterally fall upon the industry without exhaustive exploration of all operational adjustments to mitigate these escalations.  As it stands many plants may simply not pay the increase when faced with the invoices calculated at the new charge rates.

SAMW continue to collaborate with FSS, offering insights and potential strategies that could alleviate the industry’s burden.  As we navigate this challenge, we remain committed to advocating for a sustainable future for our sector.



Red Meat, Health, and Climate Change in Scotland

By Scott Walker

At the request of the Scottish Government, Food Standards Scotland (FSS), in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, modelled the impact of decreasing meat and dairy consumption on the nation’s intake of essential nutrients.  This study was prompted by the Climate Change Committee’s suggestion for the Scottish Government to promote a 20% reduction in meat consumption by 2030, increasing to 35% by 2050.

Yet, amidst calls for reduced meat consumption to mitigate climate change, FSS issues a cautionary note.  They emphasise that a blanket reduction in meat and dairy consumption could exacerbate existing micronutrient deficiencies, particularly among those already with low intakes.  Therefore, their advice regarding the consumption of red and processed meats remains unchanged.

The findings of the research underline the importance of a well-rounded diet that includes Scottish red meat.  The research conducted by Food Standards Scotland and the University of Edinburgh indicates the necessity of finding a balance between climate objectives and maintaining people’s health and nutrition.  Red meat serves as a significant source of vital nutrients crucial for overall health, including iron and selenium for immune function, B vitamins for energy, zinc for children’s growth, and vitamin D for bone density.

Issuing a blanket public health recommendation to decrease meat consumption could disproportionately affect the nutrient intake of women and girls, many of whom already struggle to meet dietary recommendations.  In Scotland, average consumption of red meat now falls below the recommended daily limit of 70g set by government experts, with women showing lower consumption than men.  This suggests that most individuals are already consuming an appropriate amount of red meat for their health and well-being.

So, what’s the takeaway from this debate?  Moderation is key.  Incorporating Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, and Specially Selected Pork into a diet alongside other nutritious options, red meat remains an integral part of a healthy eating plan.

Scotland is renowned as one of the most sustainable regions for producing high-quality, nutritious red meat.  Farmers consistently operate in harmony with the environment, particularly within the beef supply chain, actively working to reduce emissions in accordance with government policies.  Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) supports Food Standards Scotland’s aim of encouraging adherence to the official Scottish Dietary Goals.  Red meat can be a component of a healthy, balanced diet, especially when consumers opt for brands such as Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb, and Specially Selected Pork, which adhere to evidence-based welfare and environmental standards.

Rather than setting targets for reduced meat consumption solely to address climate change, there should be a concerted effort to achieve all of the Scottish Dietary Goals and support a greater number of people in adopting the Eatwell Guide dietary recommendations.


Navigating Meat Industry Challenges at SAMW New Year Lunch 2024

Lively Discussion on Recruitment, Perception, and Future Hopes

Kicking off the New Year, industry leaders gathered for a thought-provoking panel discussion at SAMW’s New Year Lunch 2024.  The conversation delved into pressing issues facing the meat industry, from recruitment challenges to changing perceptions and hopes for the future.  The lively discussion saw Marion MacCormick, Scotland Food & Drink Board Member; Jack Brown, Kepak management trainee; Scott Walker, SAMW Executive Manager; Emma Hodge, AgriScot beef farm of the year 2023; and Andrew Duff, MacDuff 1890, sharing their insights and experiences.

NYL Panel (Left to right): Marion MacCormick, Scotland Food & Drink Board Member; Jack Brown, Kepak management trainee; Scott Walker, SAMW Executive Manager; Emma Hodge, AgriScot beef farm of the year 2023; and Andrew Duff, MacDuff 1890.


Question One: Embracing What We Love and Driving Change

The discussion began with a reflection on the industry’s positive aspects and desired changes.  Participants unanimously expressed their love for the Scottish meat industry while highlighting the need to cut red tape that has increasingly burdened farmers.  Addressing misconceptions surrounding the industry and promoting a proper appreciation for the rich offerings in our larder were key goals.  The call for change echoed in the desire to dispel inaccurate claims perpetuated by the non-meat lobby.

Question Two: Attracting New Talent and Breaking Stereotypes

Recruiting the next generation emerged as a shared concern.  Participants pointed to the challenge of changing negative perceptions of meat, especially when schools label it as detrimental to health.  The need to engage with schools to provide an accurate representation of the industry and leveraging social media as a communication tool were emphasised.  Acknowledging the industry’s ageing demographic, the discussion called for greater involvement of the younger generation in shaping the future of farming.

Question Three: Navigating Livestock Challenges and Ensuring Food Security

Livestock numbers and food security took centre stage in the conversation.  Suggestions included revisiting the grading system to reward producers aligning with industry requirements and providing additional financial support to farmers facing rising input costs.  Participants stressed the importance of ensuring that government policies understand and support food security requirements.  Concerns were raised about potential constraints on livestock production amid ambitious tree planting initiatives, emphasising the need for a balanced approach.

Question Four: Hopes and Aspirations for the Next Decade

As the discussion turned towards the future, panellists shared their hopes for the next decade.  Continuous innovation, unity within the industry, and the success of traditional meat production were underscored.  The collective aspiration was for ensuring the continued production of the best meat in the world.  The sentiment echoed a desire for resilience and growth within the industry.

Editor’s Note: These insights are condensed excerpts from a dynamic debate that included informed contributions from SAMW members and guests.  The event not only provided valuable perspectives but also set the stage for a promising 2024 in the meat industry.

Rave reviews for Scotch Beef at top London restaurant

One of London’s most talked about new places to eat has credited the Scotch beef it serves for helping win rave reviews. Michelin-starred chefs and top food critics have been some of the first to book a table at The Devonshire, near Piccadilly Circus, since its opening in November.


The Devonshire Beef Room. Photo credit – Mike Taylor

Charlie Carroll, founder of the well-known Flat Iron steak restaurants, who is behind the new venture with business partner Oisin Rogers, commented: “It is very rewarding to be on the radar straight away after opening.”

   Selected by three Michelin starred chefs for Sunday lunch in its first week, and applauded by influential reviewers like Giles Coren (The Times), The Devonshire team source their all-important beef from SAMW member, AK Stoddart, prompting Charlie to declare that the Scotch Beef they’re serving stands ‘toe-to-toe with the finest from anywhere in the world’.

   Responding to such praise, Sarah Millar, CEO of Quality Meat Scotland, said: “This is a wonderful example of the farm to high-end tables that Scotch Beef, as a brand and a product, can achieve. The team at Stoddart’s has invested great care in ensuring that the meat supplied to Charlie, and his team, is consistently of exceptional quality with a fantastic associated story of dedicated farmers producing livestock to the highest of standards, from the landscapes of Scotland.”

FSS & SAMW Strategic Engagement Plan

Food Business Operators (FBOs) in the red meat sector have a direct relationship with Food Standards Scotland (FSS) via its official controls, including inspections, enforcement, advice and guidance.

An ongoing dialogue between SAMW and FSS is important to ensure that future regulatory developments are fully reflective of the sector and are developed based on good knowledge and understanding of the red meat sector’s needs, challenges and opportunities.

In order to foster a strategic partnership between the regulated meat industry in Scotland and the regulator a strategic engagement plan has been developed to enhance communication channels and to build a strong and collaborative relationship between the regulator and the industry.

Within the engagement plan are regular technical groups for FBOs to take part in and regular opportunities for engagement between FSS and SAMW.

FSS & SAMW Strategic Engagement Plan

Innovative digital solution to export declarations

A Scottish Government spokesman made the following comment to The Courier – https://www.thecourier.co.uk – in response to SAMW’s blog post – Time running out on veterinary declarations.

“This new certification procedure is a direct consequence of the choices made by UK government when it negotiated a hard Brexit.

“The Scottish Government is left with no alternative but to implement these new requirements, reluctantly, as self-certification is not compatible with EU import requirements. We are working to make these changes as simple as they can possibly be and to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and burdens.

“To support farmers, the Scottish Government is currently exploring an innovative digital solution whereby animal veterinary visits can be recorded and are readily available to certifying official veterinarians. Once initial scoping work has been carried out and initial procedures agreed full guidance will be made available.”

Time running out on veterinary declarations

The need to sort out the UK’s requirement to apply new veterinary declarations to meat exports destined for EU customers must be given top priority by government.

New rules were meant to be introduced last year but were delayed for 12 months as government wasn’t ready.  The new rules still haven’t been communicated to the industry and time is now quickly counting down.

From December 13, 2023, all farms selling livestock for slaughter must have have had an annual farm veterinary visit to allow their animals, and/or part of any animal, to be exported out of the UK to the EU.  The previous self-certification rules, which involved a farmer declaration, will be replaced by this new procedure.

Farmers who are part of an approved farm assurance scheme, such as Quality Meat Scotland, already meet the requirement for a veterinary visit.  Their participation in the scheme is noted as part of the food chain information so no additional veterinary declaration is required for them.

There have been many meetings and discussions held on this issue but little clarity forthcoming.  There is speculation and well-informed opinion on how the new rules will be interpreted but until guidance is issued by government that is all it is, speculation and informed opinion.  Industry needs to know what Official Veterinarians in meat plants must have in order to sign the necessary export health certificates.  While the main problem is going to be with cattle from farms that are non-assured until the guidance is issued, and grey areas removed, we can’t be confident that there won’t be some disruption.

This is all totally unnecessary and something of an insult to farmers and processors who are working hard to maintain exports in the face of an extremely challenging economic climate.  The guidance being produced by government needs to be shared with all in the supply chain so everyone knows what they need to do, and everyone can work together to sort out the grey areas.  We need to ensure that Official Veterinarians have what they need in order to sign export health certificates.  Any delay in the signing of these documents doesn’t just affect a meat plant but everyone in the meat supply chain.

Alistair Donaldson becomes RHASS vice-president

Congratulations to Alistair Donaldson, OBE, on being named as a member of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) Presidential Team for 2023/24.

A former Executive Manager with SAMW, Alistair will be one of the Society’s vice presidents over the next 12 months, supporting new president, Robin Gray, and working alongside fellow vice presidents Maimie Paterson, Alastair Logan, and James McLaren.

“Alistair (FRAgs) brings a wealth of experience from the meat and agriculture industry,” said the Society in its official announcement. “After college, he spent four years in Uganda on a land development project, before spending 30 years at the Meat and Livestock Commission, latterly as Managing Director. Thereafter he was appointed Technical Director of the newly formed QMS, and on retirement became Executive Manager of The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers. His roles have been many and varied – board member of QMS, Chairman of the Scottish Panel in CARAS, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Butchers and a Church of Scotland Elder.”

Representing Stirling this year, the Presidential Team will oversee their own Presidential Initiative, which will culminate at the 2024 Royal Highland Show.

Women In Meat Industry Awards

Voting options for this year’s Women In Meat Industry Awards is now available on  https://womeninmeatawards.com/shortlist/  with a record level of nominations for shortlist selection.

The final deadline for voting is August 29 with the results due to be announced at a ‘5-star ceremony’ in London on November 17.

“We are looking forward to another brilliant occasion, and this year the ceremony and dinner has moved venue to the prestigious Royal Lancaster Hotel and has been expanded to accommodate continued growth,” said organiser, Graham Yandell.

Meat-free products have potential to cause confusion with shoppers

The majority of shoppers feel meat-free products should be displayed separately to meat products in order to avoid confusion, according to research commissioned by AHDB.

The research, undertaken by AHDB’s Retail & Consumer Insight team with The Smithfield Collective, set out to understand shoppers’ behaviour towards vegetarian and vegan products that are designed to compete with meat.

It found there is potential for confusion for shoppers, with shopping bays where meat and meat-free products were very mixed together being seen as potentially confusing by 52% of consumers.

Products from unfamiliar plant-based brands, or historically meat brands which look very realistic, are the most likely to be unclear at first glance.

The shopping missions are very different for meat and meat-free products with a different set of needs and drivers; therefore 60% of shoppers agreed non-meat products should be displayed in a different place to meat products.

Consumers also agreed meat-free products are trying to replicate meat, with 69% agreeing plant-based products try to describe themselves in a way that sounds like meat.

Fifty per cent of shoppers agree that meat-free products shouldn’t use words like ‘steak’ or ‘bacon’, and 47% feel they shouldn’t use ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’.

The research found that shoppers are fond of meat packaging, with 70% likeability on average across the three meat packs tested. This was much higher than the meat-free packs.

It was not only overall likeability where meat packs outperformed plant-based. The research found 75% of shoppers think the amount of detail on meat labels is about right, in comparison this is only 66% for plant-based packages.

Grace Randall, AHDB Retail Insight Manager said: “This research is helping provide retailers and processors with evidence to protect and grow red meat sales. The findings give the industry the evidence needed to challenge retailers or government that meat and meat-free products shouldn’t be displayed together.

“AHDB will use these findings for further research in to how best to optimise meat packaging.”

See full survey details:https://ahdb.org.uk/knowledge-library/consumer-insights-shopper-behaviour-to-meat-and-meat-free