Associate Feature: Why Scotland’s butchers are not just High Street heroes
Scotland’s high street independent butchers are often one of the country’s unrecognised success stories – and a real force to be reckoned with in showcasing and promoting Scotch red meat. Their focus on customer service, in-depth product knowledge, innovative ideas and developing the next generation is paying dividends, and Scotland should be proud to be home to the best butchers in the UK for the second year running.
It has not always been easy to reach such a positive point. Like many other high street businesses, Covid made life very difficult for some time. But there has been a turn-around for many, with a good number of the 500 or so high street butchers in Scotland experiencing a great Christmas trade this year, with festive sales up 15-30 per cent year-on-year. Much of this resurgence is due to the trust families put in their local butcher to provide meat, particularly Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork, which guarantees quality, taste and provenance.
Just over half of those businesses are members of the Scotch Butchers Club, which is run by Quality Meat Scotland. It provides a range of measures to support independent butchers who choose to champion the Scotch and Specially Selected brands as a cornerstone of their business. From seasonal customer recipe packs to providing information they can use on social media, Club membership is designed to help support and sell Scotland’s renowned red meat products to all ages of consumers.
Many of those butchers are involved in the Lamb for St Andrew’s Day initiative, where the red meat sector, from farmers to butchers, donates lamb for use in school home economics classes around 30 November. In 2023, 3.1 tonnes of lamb was donated for this project which saw 127 independent butchers businesses paired up with their local school and QMS’s health and education team to help 24,717 pupils prepare a selection of lamb-based recipes.
Scotland’s local butchers are also increasingly successful in attracting and training their next generation, with about 250 people currently undertaking Modern Apprenticeships in their businesses. The Scotch Butchers Club supports these new entrants too, running practical innovation training specifically for apprentices, allowing them to see, make, price (and eat!) innovative ways of preparing beef, lamb and pork.
That focus on innovation runs deep within many of Scotland’s high street butchers, and is one of the reasons that McCaskie’s of Wemyss Bay was awarded UK Butcher’s Shop of the Year 2023. With the third generation of the family now running the business, it provides everything from traditional cuts to innovations such as Burns truffles, a delicious alternative to haggis. Their win follows another Scottish triumph in 2022, when S. Collins and Son from Muirhead, north east of Glasgow, took the UK crown.
Their wins and others showcase the dedication that Scotland’s butchers have for supporting and building our country’s red meat sector. At the recent Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards, Hugh Black & Sons won the category for Scottish Sourcing (Multiple Retailer) category, beating well-known multinationals. It is one of Scotland’s largest independent butchers with 13 retail shops throughout Lanarkshire, West Lothian, Fife and Stirling. It is incredibly proud of its Scottish sourcing and is a great believer in the farm to fork philosophy, with product provenance being very important to its customers.
Scotland’s independent high street butchers are something we should all champion and be proud of. The importance of their day-in, day-out dedication to promoting our country’s fantastic produce, supporting local communities, providing job opportunities and boosting the economy cannot be under-estimated. They are one of the key players in making Scotland the choice for premium red meat.
This article is sponsored by Quality Meat Scotland