Amidst the stresses of coronavirus supermarket shopping, who bothers these days to check the country of origin on that pack of beef mince?

But we should. A resilient food economy is predicated on supporting our native farmers. Yet major food retailers, companies fond of bragging about how they support British and Scottish farming, are loading their beef shelves with imported meat.

Last month, there was an outcry in the farming press when Polish beef was spotted on Scottish supermarket shelves. The supermarket’s excuse was that panic buying had forced them temporarily to source more beef from abroad. Now it’s Irish beef that’s crowding the meat aisle in Scottish supermarkets. In some Scottish stores at the moment, almost all the beef is Irish.

Why on earth are retailers favouring Irish beef over Scotch? It’s not as if Scottish farmers can’t supply enough to feed us. The answer is disconcerting. Irish beef is more profitable to stock because the Irish government is paying a Covid-19 subsidy to its beef industry. This allows it to dump cheap beef onto the UK and Scottish market leaving our local beef suppliers out in the cold.

For supermarkets, if you view it purely as an economic proposition, subsidised Irish beef is a no-brainer. They can buy it cheaper than Scotch, yet sell it for the established retail price, and be quids in. Bear in mind that our major flood retailers aren’t short of a bob or two at the moment.

The UK Government has handed them hundreds of millions in business rate relief – that’s our taxpayers’ cash – while they support the food chain in Poland and Ireland. And as the eating out sector has disappeared, supermarkets have benefited directly, showing their strongest sustained sales period for years.

Make no mistake about it. If supermarkets get away with building their beef supply chain on imports, Scottish beef farmers might as well shut up shop now.

Given the rate that state-aid subsidised meat imports are flooding into the country, we won’t have a livestock industry left. So, if you do buy your beef in supermarkets, here’s my plea. If you spot Irish beef in your store, embarrass the retailer in question by putting a picture on social media, accompanied by the obvious question: ‘Here’s supermarket X selling imported beef instead of Scotch. Why?”

Or make an online complaint. Even speak to the store manager, from a suitable distance away, of course. This is a really important consumer battle.

If we want Scotland to keep on producing its world renowned, grass-fed beef, we must embarrass the retailers that undermine our native beef farmers while posturing about their steadfast support for them. In fact, why not dump supermarket beef shopping and start buying from an independent butcher, farm shop, or online, direct from the farmer?

I avoid shopping in supermarkets, but even if you’re a supermarket regular, you’ll likely accept that meat is not their strongest department. Neither the eating quality of their beef, nor their butchery, can compare with that of a skilled, specialist butcher. And they don’t stock a full, nose-to-tail range of cuts, preferring to sell us mountains of nondescript mince and anonymous ‘steak’ and ‘stew’ cuts that are taste – and tenderness – challenged.

Proper butchers, by contrast, can be relied on to source Scotch beef first and foremost, beef that eats well. The best amongst them usually know the farm and farmers that produced it.

Stocking up family freezers before lockdown, I gave my daughter mince from my local butcher. When she got round to cooking it, she phoned me up to ask me what it was. “It smells so good, and it’s just so different from supermarket mince. The smell as you fry that up makes me feel sick. But this makes my mouth water.”

Why the contrast? As I discovered when I investigated supermarket meat for my book Shopped – The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets, the butchering in the meat plants that supply them is crude, often careless.

The beef is rarely adequately aged, and must, through the application of modified air packaging, look wet and ruby-red when packed. Any good cook or chef knows that this state does not make for rewarding eating. Why make do with supermarket beef when you could be eating the good stuff?