As part of the Scottish government’s new Poultry Plan, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead is writing to major supermarkets, catering companies and fast food chains to find out where they currently source their chicken and what their future intentions are.
The Poultry Plan, published on December 24, 2013, identifies important steps that need to be taken to secure a sustainable and profitable future for Scotland's poultry sector, and will be updated throughout 2014 as progress is made.
Other work being taken forward includes examining the options for creating a premium brand for Scottish chicken, identifying opportunities for poultry farmers to work together to cut costs, and support for the newly-established Scottish Chicken Growers Association.
Mr 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."
Scotland Food and Drink Chief Executive James Withers said:
"For any sector to have a future, it needs clear demand from customers. We know there is strong demand from shoppers in Scotland for high quality chicken. A number of supermarkets have a strong track record in sourcing their chicken from Scotland and, clearly, they will have a pivotal role in the future of the sector. We'll need their support to underpin the poultry plan.
"When it comes to the catering industry though, the picture can be much more mixed. It will be hugely helpful to explore further how the big catering firms might source chicken in future. I've spoken to hotel chefs myself who would be interested in sourcing high quality Scottish poultry and switching away from imports. It is these kinds of opportunities we now need to grasp, at the same time as developing a more sustainable processing structure."