By Kate Rowell

THIS year has seen many different changes for people in Scotland. The office has been swapped for the kitchen table, family get-togethers exchanged for videos calls and, most notably during the summer months just passed, holidays abroad have been swapped for holidaying in the UK or cancelled completely.

All this change has brought about a great deal of uncertainty for our population. However, one way we can retain some semblance of normality is in the foods that we buy and making sure that we support local producers and suppliers with the purchases we make.

Not only will shopping local help boost the economy and bolster the livelihoods of Scotland’s butchers, farmers and other food producers, it is a far more sustainable way to shop and ensures that the food we eat has been naturally grown, reared and produced.

Recent research by Quality Meat Scotland into consumer attitudes to grocery shopping showed that just below half (49 per cent) of the people surveyed will increasingly scan and read on-pack information on their groceries. With that in mind, one of the easiest ways we can all make sure we are buying red meat that follows local and sustainable production methods is by choosing those packets with the Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI or Specially Selected Pork logos.

It was also encouraging to see that 70 percent of respondents were aware of the benefits of having red meat as part of a healthy diet. On top of that, more than two-thirds (67%) stated that they have been trying to support more local trade in recent months and 77% were aware of the importance of trying to do so.

With Brexit on the horizon and the recent re-tightening of coronavirus restrictions across the country, there has never been a more important time for people in Scotland to champion the world class red meat industry we have available on our doorstep. Therefore, it is imperative that people follow through on their intentions to support local by making sure the food they buy, particularly red meat, has come from local farmers who adhere to some of the strictest animal welfare, production and quality assurance standards in the world.

One of the positives to come from the months of lockdown our population experienced this year was the heightened sense of community brought about by small businesses pivoting their offerings to offer deliveries within their local communities. As well as that, many people chose to venture out to their local butchers, for example, for their weekly red meat purchases. This provided a huge boost, both morally and financially, to local businesses everywhere which is something that can only be seen as a positive and we hope continues for a long time to come.

Of course, the benefits of supporting local when it comes to buying red meat extend further than helping the economy. It also means consumers can buy a range of different cuts of meat – whether they be beef, lamb or pork – all in one place that will be a much higher quality than cheaper, often imported alternatives.

Whatever the rest of the year may bring, our message to red meat consumers remains clear: don’t let your food travel further than you this year, or any other year for that matter.

Kate Rowell is Chair of Quality Meat Scotland