The Strengthening Local Meat Supply Chains e-learning programme is the culmination of a two-year project led and co-ordinated by IRD Duhallow, a rural development company covering north-west Cork and parts of east Kerry.
SLMSC project co-ordinator Isobel Fletcher of IRD Duhallow said: “It is important to make the programme as widely available as possible to encourage small meat business owners to think about ways they can improve their business in order to make it more viable and sustainable.”
The programme is funded under the European Commission Life-Long Learning Leonardo da Vinci programme. It brought together seven partners from Ireland, Spain, Denmark, and Finland with skills in all different aspects of the meat sector, including education and training.
The EU-wide programme consists of five training units which can be studied singly or as a comprehensive package, depending on the individual business needs. It incorporates business and product development, innovation, and marketing.
The project was introduced against a background of a dramatic drop in the number of local abattoirs across Europe. This was due to stringent regulations, rising consumer quality demands, and the dominance of multinational retailers.
In Ireland alone, the number of abattoirs has dropped from 1,000 20 years ago to just over 200 today. Nonetheless, those driving the SLMC initiative contend that there is still a strong consumer preference for locally produced food.
Ms Fletcher said: “We seem to have struck a chord with those who recognise that they need guidance and ideas to help them develop their businesses into the future. Quite often they don’t have the time or financial resources to participate in business development programmes that are more generic and offer little in the way of practical solutions for a small, often rurally-based, meat business.”
Available online, the programme can also be delivered in a classroom-setting using a DVD resource pack. This DVD can be used by existing training institutions and local development agencies that work with small rural enterprises.
The Irish project partners are Momentum Creative Marketing Services, Leitrim, and IRD Duhallow, which has strong ties to the rural economy through the Leader programme.
The project is available online through its website: www.slmsc-project.eu and is available in the four partner languages of English, Spanish, Finnish, and Danish.