A worrying gap is emerging between the true value of beef and the price that retailers sell it for, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), the red-meat industry's promotional body, warned yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of QMS's annual review, Chairman Jim McLaren said the fact the retail price of beef does not reflect the genuine cost of beef production and processing was now a very real threat to the future viability of the red-meat processing sector.

"The beef processing industry is facing major financial pressure and struggling to endure the pincer effect of strong cattle prices coupled with the time-lag in retailers passing this raw material price increase to consumers. The result is our processing sector is enduring margins which are simply unsustainable," said Mr McLaren.

The latest analysis by QMS looks at beef market trends over the past three years.

Since July 2010 the average deadweight price (the price paid by an abattoir operator to farmers) for a steer in GB has risen by 51% from around £2.65/kg to just over £4/kg.

However, retail price index data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in June 2013 the average retail price for beef in the UK was just 22% higher than in July 2010.

Looking at the longer-term, analysis by QMS's economics services team suggests the increase in cattle prices is likely to be sustained as it reflects the tightening supply of beef cattle in Europe and other parts of the world.


A grant of £96,500 is being made available to set up deer farm demonstration units in Scotland that are budgeted to cost £135,000. The balance will come from industry stakeholders.

The money comes from the Skills Development Scheme, funded under the Scotland Rural Development Programme, and is being granted to Scotland Food and Drink.

The funding was announced yesterday by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead and will help to establish two demonstration deer farms.

The package reminds me of the funding put in place back in 1970 for an experimental deer farm to be managed jointly by the Hill Farming Research Organisation and the Rowett Research Institute at Glensaugh, Kincardineshire. Sadly the embryonic deer industry of the 1970s withered in the absence of subsidy support.

Scotland currently has around 25 commercial deer farms that produce in the region of 50 tonnes of meat per annum, which is miniscule by comparison with New Zealand which produced a massive 22,900t of venison in 2011/12.

Most of Scotland's annual output of 3500t of venison comes from wild deer and is of variable quality.

Scotland's main game dealers import the equivalent of 25,000 deer carcasses annually to meet a growing demand that shows no sign of abating.

Speaking at the New Dawn for Deer Farmers event in Auchtermuchty, Fife, Mr Lochhead said: "There is a clear appetite for venison and it is vital that we look to provide the tools needed for people to move into a sector which is still in its infancy.

"The current CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) deal has not benefited deer farmers but, after making it a priority, we achieved support for them in the new CAP and they will be included from the outset."