Counting sheep

Published Tuesday, 19th November 2019 in Research news

Research looked at opportunities for increasing the number of sheep processed in Scotland
Research looked at opportunities for increasing the number of sheep processed in Scotland

The Scottish sheep industry needs to process more animals at home and develop markets outside of the European Union in order to meet future challenges, new research has found.

The research – commissioned by the Scottish Government to assess the opportunities for increasing the number of sheep processed in Scotland – was carried out by Kev Bevan, Steven Thomson and Dr Cesar Revoredo-Giha, from Scotland’s Rural College, together with Dr Andrew Moxey of Pareto Consulting.

Currently, a majority of Scottish-born sheep are slaughtered outside of the country –only 42 per cent of lambs and almost no ewes or rams were processed in Scotland in 2018.

Most lamb is supplied to UK supermarkets and premium EU export markets, with only 7 per cent of marketed Scottish lambs slaughtered and consumed in Scotland.

Researchers found there were opportunities to grow Scottish sheep and lamb processing, by improving competitiveness through product development, pricing, promotion, technology and logistics among other things.

However, with the outcome of Brexit still unclear, researchers warned that demand for lamb and mutton could be seriously cut if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement maintaining access to continental markets.

And they said a considerable and sustained effort would be needed to develop new markets in regions such as the Middle East, Asia and North America.

Kev Bevan, a senior consultant with SAC Consulting, said: “The Scottish red meat industry faces considerable challenges given potential big changes to trade arrangements, farm support and the development of alternative proteins. 

“Developing a more demand-driven, collaborative approach will be key to delivering the competitiveness required to prosper in this new era.

“If a greater number of sheep were retained for processing, the Scottish economy could gain additional employment, value added and export volumes. In turn, this would support the sheep sector’s contribution to rural communities, heritage and landscapes. 

“In addition, reduced reliance on long-distance haulage of live animals to abattoirs in southern Britain could mitigate some animal welfare and transport-carbon emission concerns.”

The full report can be read here.

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