Mutton supply chain in good health

Early feedback from the National Sheep Association’s new Make More of Mutton project has revealed that the mutton supply chain is buoyant with plenty of good quality products on the market.

bob kennard nsa

Bob Kennard

Early feedback from the National Sheep Association’s new Make More of Mutton project has revealed that the mutton supply chain is buoyant with plenty of good quality products on the market.

NSA’s Make More of Mutton is sponsored by Eblex, HCC and LMC, and extends the work of the Mutton Renaissance Club, an initiative of HRH The Prince of Wales. It was launched last October and an initial fact-finding exercise has shown average confidence levels of those in the supply chain are 3.5 out of 5. There are clear areas where improvements could be made, but levels of enthusiasm and interest are high.
Project Manager Bob Kennard says those responding to the survey so far are mostly sheep farmers retailing their own mutton in small volumes.

“Supply chains were therefore relatively short, with half of the participants having their own butchery facilities, and two traditional butcher’s shops also taking part,” says Mr Kennard. “The markets for mutton identified are wide ranging, with respondents to the survey selling from farm shops, farmers’ markets, butchers and other retail premises, by mail order, wholesale, pubs and restaurants and other caterers.

“There was great innovation illustrated by the responses, with about a quarter of producers supplying various cured and smoked mutton products, and most offering a wide variety of fresh mutton cuts. Between them, the initial respondents offered mutton from 20 breeds of sheep.”

Problems highlighted include variable quality of carcases and many producers finding it hard to retail the entire carcase (carcase balance). The survey also raised issues such as a lack of availability of local abattoirs and difficulty recruiting skilled butchers. Public awareness of the benefits of quality mutton was thought by some to be lacking too.This information is vital to enable more development within the industry, Mr Kennard says, with the Make More of Mutton project already offering point of sale material and three upcoming regional mutton events. A dedicated website is under construction at www.makemoreofmutton.org.uk and more activity will come on stream in the coming months.

Mr Kennard says: “The survey respondents have shown great energy, vision and innovation. There is also a feeling of pride in the eating quality of the product they are selling, and most can tell the consumer the story behind the meat.”

He adds that he is keen to hear from other farmers, processors, retailers and caterers involved in the quality mutton supply chain, and urges them to initially complete the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/nsamutton.

“The more information we can gather directly from those involved in the sector the better we can target our future resources,” says Mr Kennard.

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