Scottish politicians call for local poultry sourcing
Published:  03 January, 2014

Scottish politicians have launched a campaign to boost opportunities for the country’s poultry sector and have written to the UK’s multiple retailers and food service operators for clarification on sourcing policies.

The letters sent by Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead are seeking to identify where companies buy their chicken, and what their future plans are. The move is part of the Scottish government’s wider Poultry Plan, which was launched on Christmas Eve, and aims to secure a profitable and sustainable future for the poultry industry.

Other strands to the plan include looking at the opportunities to creat a premium brand for Scottish chicken, supporting the newly established Scottish Chicken Growers Association and looking at opportunities for farmers to cut down on costs.

Lochhead said: “In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, people want to know what they are buying and Scottish produce has impeccable quality and provenance. The sooner we move to a position where the poultry consumed in Scotland is produced in Scotland, the better for us all – for consumers, for food companies, and, above all, for Scotland’s poultry sector.

“I have no doubt that when consumers are served chicken or purchase chicken at their local supermarket or in a fast food chain they would prefer it to be sourced in Scotland. I am convinced there is strong demand in Scotland for the fantastic poultry being produced here, which is top quality and meets the highest animal welfare standards.

“That is why I am writing to major supermarkets, food service companies and fast food chains to ask where the currently source their chicken, including whole birds, chicken portions and the cooked ingredients used in their meals and sandwiches.  Consumers need to know the facts and need transparency.

“Earlier this year Tesco made a very welcome commitment to source 100 per cent fresh Scottish chicken in its stores and I would like to see that replicated elsewhere.”

The announcement follows on from issues raised by the independent sector. The Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA) acted with dismay to the news of reduced production and job losses at the 2 Sisters owned operation in Coupar Angus and the sale of its processing operation in Letham, Angus.

The company announced in November that it was entering consultations over the loss of 200 jobs at Coupar Angus as the site was making substantial losses, It said in a statement: “There is an oversupply of poultry in Scotland, which has historically been the least efficient manufacturing base. There is also evidence of a decline in the UK poultry market due to changes in consumer demand. This situation is unsustainable.”

However, the SFMTA said moves to reduce and close processing and production facilities was a “Beeching” like action as Scottish butchers were crying out for Scottish poultry products. In its newsletter, the SFMTA said: “The Federation has been dismayed by the claims that there is insufficient demand in Scotland to sustain the poultry processing plant at Letham in Angus. Since 2007, when the 2 Sisters Group took over Joseph Mitchell’s business there, Scottish butchers have been denied access to a large proportion of the chicken grown in Scotland.”

The Federation said most Scottish butchers, which have been forced to source poultry from outside Scotland, would be happy to switch to Scottish supplies, if the quality and processing was good.