Bring back mutton
THe diversity of Britain’s sheep meat deserves the same consumer recognition as that enjoyed by regional beers and cheeses, according to the National Sheep Association (NSA).
Aided by a grant from The Prince’s Countryside Fund, the NSA is to conduct a study into how best to promote consumption of meat—not only lamb, but hogget and mutton as well—from heritage breeds connected to specific landscapes, from the Herdwicks that are an emblem of the Cumbrian fells to the exmoor Horn, lancashire’s lonk and the Beulah Speckled Faces that roam the Powys hills.
‘The idea is to try to capture the public imagination by telling the story behind the meat—the history, the breed and the landscape—and convey that it’s not just one type of meat,’ explains the NSA’S mutton consultant Bob Kennard.
Britain has more breeds of sheep than any other country, comprising 25% of the eu flock. The UK is the world’s sixth biggest exporter of sheep meat, producing one-third of the eu’s supply, hence apprehension over postbrexit trade deals (‘Shaggy sheep stories’, March 29).
The NSA reports an ‘alarming’ drop in native sheep populations, plus a reduction in traditional farming methods ‘due to commercial and environmental pressures’. ‘we have a priceless asset in our sheep gene pool, the traits of some we are just starting to understand,’ says NSA chief executive Phil Stocker. ‘These native sheep and the farming systems they belong to are too valuable to be protected by agrienvironment schemes alone. Our sheep industry would do well to look at how to win back market share, even if we are initially talking of niche volumes.’ KG