BALLATER butchers, Sheridan's, are at the forefront of a simple, low cost scheme to end the misery of a "daft" situation which resulted in family firms being threatened with prosecution for telling customers which farms their beef comes from.
Six months ago, the Piper exclusively revealed that an outdated set of EC regulations was being administered by the Scottish Government in such a way that hundreds of butchers across Scotland could not use boards or websites to say where their meat came from …even when it was their own family farm.
In the face of protests from customers, farmers, politicians and other butchers, the Scottish Government agreed to let the butchers' own trade organisation come up with a workable solution to the regulation stranglehold.
This week, the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders' Associations (SFMTA) announced a pilot scheme involving the two companies who first openly challenged the regulations, Sheridan's of Ballater and Macbeths of Forres.
Chief executive of the SFMTA, Doug Scott, explained that they were chosen because they have experience of trying to cut through the old red tape and can be relied upon to give feedback to the federation on how well the new approach works, identifying any snags before the scheme is rolled out to across the whole of Scotland in January.
The scheme will be free for the first year and very low cost after that, said Mr Scott.
Existing evidence such as cattle passports, invoices and delivery notes will replace the previous complex requirements and the assessors will be the federation's own trainers, master butchers who are known to the 450 butchers'businesses across Scotland because of their work with young and trainee butchers.
"Delighted" Sheridan's director Barry Florence confirmed that their application is already in for the pilot scheme, adding: "Hopefully it will be a success and all butchers buying direct from the farm can then say where their meat is coming from."
Lumphanan farmer Sandy Tulloch, a director of the NFU Scotland, and chairman of its Less Favoured Areas Committee, has been an outspoken critic of what he said was a "crazy" situation.
"At last a workable solution to a bureaucratic impasse that need never have happened," he said with relief. "To think that any EU Directive could have been so badly thought out beggars belief. It's just as well there are enough thrawn people around to make a difference."
Managing director of Macbeths, Michael Gibson, said he welcomed a pragmatic solution to what was a "daft" state of affairs.
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for rural affairs, said:"The Scottish Government has worked closely with the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA) to streamline the existing approval process and devise a light touch beef labelling scheme which provides a win-win solution to all concerned."