Public sector disruption 'challenging' Scottish red meat supply chain

The continued reduced public sector demand for red meat is a 'cause for concern' for the supply chain, QMS said
The continued reduced public sector demand for red meat is a 'cause for concern' for the supply chain, QMS said

Disruptions to the public sector including the closure of schools continue to be a challenge for Scotland’s red meat supply chain, Quality Meat Scotland said.

Discussion surrounding the disruption to the supply chain has been dominated by the foodservice industry, in which 20% of total beef sales disappeared overnight.

But reduced public sector demand is also as a cause for concern, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) explained.

Before the current crisis, one in four people in the United Kingdom had access to a public sector meal each day, it said.

With multiple food-serving organisations closed, the demand decline resulting from food sector closures has been compounded.

QMS chair Kate Rowell explained that UK public service establishments deliver over two billion meals per year and are a significant purchaser within the overall red meat market.

"While care homes, prisons and military bases remain operational, there are some aspects of the public sector, such as the short term closure of many outlets and pressure to limit red meat consumption, that have compromised demand.

"There are fewer general hospital patients and the closure of schools, colleges, and public buildings such as museums, leisure centres and libraries, has further distorted the market,” she said.

Although much of the public sector is serviced by wholesalers, downstream suppliers, producers and distributors would feel the effect.

“We’re experiencing a ‘new normal’ and what we’re trying to do is think differently about how we can ensure that there is an equitable return for all parts of the supply chain," Ms Rowell said.

Red meat bodies are working with the Scottish government retailers and wholesalers to find solutions to these issues, but there are 'no quick fixes'.

As part of this QMS are investing heavily in balancing carcase demand with a Scotland-specific £500,000 consumer campaign.

In addition to working on supporting the wholesale market, a major GB national campaign encouraging consumers to “Make It” with beef will run from May in partnership with AHDB and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC).

The £1.2m campaign is a joint response by all three organisations to promote the high value cuts, such as steaks and roasts, again tackling carcase balance challenges.

Ms Rowell said: “With loin and hindquarter sales down, it will remain a challenge for the industry to move the entire carcase while minimising impact to the overall value.

"Our collaborative national campaign aims to inspire consumers, who are unable to eat out, to create restaurant-style meals in their homes."

QMS said it would continue to encourage the public to buy Scotch beef and lamb wherever possible.