Top food producer thrives thanks to net zero drive

One of Scotland’s fastest-growing food brands has announced that reducing its carbon emissions by almost 110% helped the company to survive Brexit, Covid and especially the ongoing energy crisis.

We hae meat, which supplies major supermarket chains with high-quality sausages and burgers from its Ayrshire farm and factory, installed a biomass plant on site and solar panels. The investments helped to save £750,000 from its annual energy costs.

Alex Paton, fourth-generation farmer and co-founder of the business with his wife Carlyn, said: “Without doubt, we could have closed our doors in the last two years if we hadn’t made our operations much more sustainable. The increase in energy prices, on the back of Brexit and Covid, would have been impossible for us to absorb. We’ve seen other businesses in our sector struggling where we’ve been able to use the cost savings as a basis for growth.”

The company first created a carbon management plan in 2015 with support from environmental consultants Tomson Consultancy, reducing its emissions by nearly 90% within the first year alone. It has since gone on to install LEDs and a wastewater treatment system.

Further savings have come from switching its delivery fleet to hybrid plug-in vans charged by the company’s own CHP electric generation, saving 66% on fuel costs, and using excess heat from on-site heat generation to replace tumble dryers.

These have all resulted in the business now being carbon neutral.The family business includes four traditional farms and even the cattle gain from a greener approach as waste cardboard is shredded for bedding.

Alex added: “Brexit has affected competition for labour and maybe an inflationary effect on materials, and clearly Covid was disruptive for virtually every business sector. The increase in energy prices could have been catastrophic. We started on our net zero journey eight years ago because it was the right thing to do but now we’re really seeing the business benefits too.”

We hae meat’s achievements have resulted in it being recognised for sustainability with the Co-Op in Scotland Awards and most recently winning at the Scotland Food and Drink Excellence awards in 2022 for Sustainability Achievements.