Time right for new meat tastes says NSA
The National Sheep Association (NSA) will welcome sheep breeders, foodservice professionals and the wider livestock sector to its Worcestershire headquarters as the organisation launches its new proposal promoting native British sheep breeds and their value.
The British Heritage Sheep project is an initiative introducing the public to the flavours and eating experiences of one of the UK’s iconic assets – its 60 native breeds of sheep and sheep meat of different ages.
As well as offering consumers new eating experiences, the strategic proposal highlights to the sheep sector the opportunity to promote and protect the diversity of Britain’s native breeds of sheep, adding value to the sheep supply chain, as well as enhancing landscapes, rural communities and the environment.
The Heritage Sheep proposal is based on informing consumers about the ‘ABC’ of sheep meat. This is the Age and Breed of the sheep, and the area of Countryside where it has been farmed. Age is in three categories – lamb (up to 12 months); hogget (12-24 months), and mutton (24 months+). Breeds focus on UK Native breeds developed before 1960 – around 60 of them, and the Countryside is specific UK landscapes and environments. Labels will inform consumers about these different aspects, as well as others, which will be accessed by consumers via an app and barcode. This may be some Suffolk lamb from the Fens of Cambridgeshire, some Derbyshire Gritstone hogget from the Dales, or Welsh Mountain mutton from the Cambrian mountains.
“This connection between landscapes and the native breeds which have created them is an important cultural link which we lose at our peril.”
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker commented: “We are very excited about this initiative, and believe its time has come. The iconic British landscape has evolved over hundreds of years around the farming of our native sheep breeds. This connection between landscapes and the native breeds which have created them is an important cultural link which we lose at our peril. Each breed has its own niche and purpose, and each has its own flavour. The scheme will open up this treasure trove of different flavours and textures to the UK public, and potentially wider afield by spearheading exports. Never before has this been more important to promote.”
Bob Kennard, author of the report who has conducted much of the research behind the proposal said: “Through taste trials we have shown that there is a wealth of flavours to enjoy in sheep meat, not just the superb standard lamb. This is hardly surprising, as the Victorians knew this very well, and many had their favourite breeds. For millennia older sheep meat was also much more widely eaten in the UK, and yet for the past few decades this great array of flavours has not been available. We hope this scheme will rectify that and bring some extra excitement and enjoyment into eating sheep meat. Encouragingly, our consumer research showed that there was particular interest from younger people.”
A summary of the strategic proposal is available to download from the NSA website at www.nationalsheep.org.uk/heritagesheep as well as a video explaining the importance of this scheme on the NSA YouTube channel.