Chef Kitchin, who has been working with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) as part of the on-going Scotch Beef PGI promotion campaign, visited Meikle Fieldie farm, run by the Hunter family near Glenfarg to learn more about beef production and the role of quality assurance.
The Hunters run 120 suckler cows, primarily Limousin and British Blue cross cows, on the farm which is around 480 acres and extends to 650 feet above sea level at its highest point.
Kitchin, who is Chef Proprietor of The Kitchin in Edinburgh and regularly appears on Saturday Kitchen and The One Show, was shown round the farm by Alan and his daughter Jill. He said the “passion and enthusiasm” shown by the Hunters and the attention to detail evident in their cattle management was very impressive.
“With the Scotch Beef brand you know that cattle have been born, reared and slaughtered in Scotland and reared to the standards required by QMS’s quality assurance schemes.
“From a chef’s point of view animal welfare is vitally important. I want to know that cattle have been reared to a high standard and well treated and the quality assurance behind Scotch Beef gives you that guarantee.”
During the visit, Tom was taken on a tour in the farm’s Polaris Ranger UTV to get an understanding of the terrain and the importance of grass in Scotch Beef production.
The farm is typical of livestock units in Scotland, where 85 per cent of Scottish agricultural land is only suitable for grass and rough grazing. This means it is no good for vegetables and cereals but ideal for top quality beef and lamb production.
Chef Kitchin also highlighted the exceptional taste of Scotch Beef.
“What sets Scotch Beef apart is that fantastic flavour you get – you don’t get that anywhere else in the world. I’ve worked in many restaurants in many different countries and there is nothing quite like Scotch Beef,” he said.
A huge champion of nose-to-tail eating, he also emphasised the versatility of beef. “As a chef I love to use every part of the animal – nothing should go to waste. In my restaurant you can taste sweetbreads, ox tongue and shin as well as prime cuts.
“You can do so many different things with beef – from classics like beef wellington to braised beef cheeks. At this time of year there is nothing better!”
Mr Kitchin could also see many parallels between the work ethic of chefs and farmers.
“As chefs we are used to long hours, working under pressure and paying attention to detail but when you come to farm like this you get a very good understanding of just how hard these guys work too.
“My job wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for farmers working to produce quality raw ingredients like Scotch Beef. In terms of the end result, the importance of using quality products cannot be over-stated - good chefs know it is 80% about the quality of the product and 20% about the chef!”
Tom Kitchin has been working with QMS as part of a 13 week campaign showcasing Scotch Beef and the flavour, provenance, traceability and integrity which underpin the brand’s PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status.
With the strapline of “There’s beef, there’s Scottish beef, then there’s Scotch Beef”, the campaign, which started in February, is targeting 10 million consumers across the UK and aims to inform, educate and inspire them to use Scotch Beef when they cook.
The campaign is also currently running in Scotland where over 2.2 million consumers are hearing what makes Scotch Beef PGI a cut above the rest in a new radio campaign launched this month.
A key objective of the 2016 campaign is to clearly differentiate Scotch Beef, and the marketing push will include billboard and press advertising as well as on-line activity.
Three hundred independent butchers, who are members of the Scotch Butchers Club, have also received promotional packs with recipe cards and resources to help them boost their sales of Scotch Beef.