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QMS’ brands licensing scheme can help farmers add value when selling direct

Branding products Scotch Beef, through Quality Meat Scotland’s (QMS) Brands Licensing Scheme,  has proved a positive asset for a new direct selling venture for a family farming business in Aberdeenshire.

Harry and Helen Brown, from Auchmalidde Mains Farm, started selling their home-grown Scotch Beef to the local community last summer.

“I’m fourth generation on the farm. The Brown family came here in 1918 and we have had a long and proud history of cattle, which was traditionally Orkney bred cattle which were then sold at Maud mart,” said Harry Brown.

In 2004, Harry started breeding his own Limousin cross cattle, but it wasn’t until last year that he and Helen decided to start selling direct to the consumer and sharing their farm story.

“Harry and his late father have shown cattle and participated in carcase competitions over the years with great success which subsequently led to us being invited to supply beef for the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London on two occassions. We had thought about it for a long time and saw value selling direct and developing a deeper connection with consumers about where their beef comes from,” said Helen.

Starting in June last year, Harry and Helen used their network of butchers and industry contacts to experiment with different cuts and blends to find what would work best for the business. The Browns partnered with Forbes Raeburn Butchers at Huntly and began selling to close friends and family.

“This has been an enjoyable learning experience for us and all the butchers we have contacted have been fantastic and couldn’t have been more supportive in helping us start out.

“In the beginning we started selling to family and friends, but it soon expanded into something far larger. We’ve build up a large local customer base which has been helped by the farm’s reputation for producing quality cattle over the years.  We have grown our customer base using social media and attending the farmers’ markets, but it's not easy. By selling direct, we are classified now as a food business and are required to comply with many additional regulations. You have to register with local food authorities and trading standards, and I know why people can easily be put off by it but we have been determined to make it work,” said Harry.

Once established, Helen contacted QMS to see what support they can provide to make their traceability and sustainability story go further and decided to apply to be part of the Brands Licensing Scheme.

“The Scotch Beef brand has a lot to offer for farm businesses who want to sell their product direct. Through QMS’ national marketing campaigns over the years, consumers associate the brand with high welfare, sustainability and environmental credentials and that’s the story we want to tell about our beef. We want people to know that locally reared Scotch Beef is the best quality you can buy,” said Helen.

Harry adds: “We wanted to take it that little bit further and showcase the full story, and traceability plays a big part in this. We’ve been working with Charles and Gary at Forbes Raeburn Butchers to ensure that individual animal numbers are printed on each label so that consumers can be assured it’s been born and reared on our farm and then processed and sold locally."

QMS’ Brands Licensing Scheme was introduced in 2013 for secondary processors and other companies in the supply chain to guarantee the authenticity of the Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork brands.

Gordon Newlands, QMS Brand Development Manager, said being part of the scheme can add value to farmers selling direct to consumer as much as on supermarket shelves.

“Due to lockdown, there has been a sharp rise in farmers looking to shorten the supply chain and sell direct to consumers. With 92% of shoppers agreeing that the Scotch labels mean the meat is produced according to higher standards of animal welfare, being part of the Brands Licensing Scheme can add creditability to your product.”

Since May 2020, out of 16 applications to join the scheme, 14 are farmers and crofters that are selling direct to the public. These 16 businesses alone contribute considerable value to Scotland’s rural economy.

“I would strongly encourage any farmer, crofter or independent retailer who is interested in using the Scotch brands to contact us to discuss how it can add value to your business,” said Gordon.