As Love British Lamb Week approaches we speak to two of this year’s young ‘Lambassadors’ about their ambitions to challenge the traditional consumption of lamb.
This year’s Love Lamb Week runs from September 1-7 and aims to remind consumers lamb can be enjoyed all-year round.
12 young sheep farmers will be acting as ‘lambassadors’, championing the product and hosting a raft of activities to boost lamb’s profile
The initiative was started by Cumbrian sheep farmer Rachel Lumley in 2015 and is supported by the AHDB, the National Sheep Association, NFU, Red Tractor, Welsh meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru, the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland and Quality Meat Scotland
Richard Rossiter is keen to promote the health benefits of eating lamb during Love Lamb Week 2018.
The farmer, based in Galmpton, Kingsbridge, South Devon, is looking forward to promoting the lamb his family produces.
“I think it is key to promote lamb as a healthy meat and a good source of protein,” he says.
“Everyone associates chicken with protein, but lamb has all the healthy fats, vitamins and protein a person could need.”
Richard farms 550 Poll Dorsets, 200 Suffolk/Aber Blacks and 450 Exlanas on his 400-hectare (1,000-acre) site, which is also home to 120ha (300 acres) of arable.
Supporting his belief lamb can be enjoyed all year round, his Poll Dorsets lamb in September and October, ensuring they are ready for the early market in January.
As a member of the Poll Dorset Centurion Group, Richard promotes the performance of the breed to commercial and pedigree customers.
“The Exlanas are used as a maternal breed to keep costs down, build worm resistance and produce decent lamb while cutting costs,” he says.
Situated just a mile from the coast, the farm is the perfect location for the breed, which suits coastal and stewardship land unsuitable for dairy grazing or arable production.
Aged 27, the National Sheep Association Next Generation Ambassador is aware lamb is falling in popularity with the younger generation.
“It is perceived to be an expensive meat and joints are usually considered too big,” he says. But he wants to emphasise the different cuts available for smaller households.
“There are now much smaller joints readily available which will hopefully mean young people see lamb as something suitable for a meal for just two people, rather than thinking they have to buy an entire leg. From steaks to chops, there are so many options.”
In the wake of a tough summer, Richard admits lamb producers are aware of the challenges they face, yet he believes getting the public onside will be key to the industry’s survival as Brexit approaches.
“If we can get the public on our side and get them eating more lamb from our country then we would not be as reliant on exports.
“Taking small steps to communicate more with consumers is something Richard is making a conscious effort to incorporate into his daily routine, often stopping to talk to holidaymakers visiting the area.”
A lot of farmers do not do much when it comes to connecting with consumers, but it can be as simple of chatting to them and answering their questions about how meat is produced,” he adds.
“I try to spend a bit of time, even if it is just five minutes, it can do a lot of good.”
Kirree Kermode brings a unique perspective to the Love Lamb Week campaign as a sheep farmer on the Isle of Man.
Alongside her parents and brothers, Kiree farms 250 pedigree Texels in Orrisdale, Ballasalla, in the south of the island.
“This is our main flock. We do a lot of showing and sell most of the rams in the UK,” she says.
The family also farm a small flock of Charollais and recently begun producing Texel-Charollais crosses, which have proved popular.
A cross-bred flock of mainly Suffolk and Texel crosses and some hill sheep on the west coast of the island bring the business’ total flock size to 1,200.
“On the Isle of Man we start lambing in April, with most of our produce ready for market in July.
This helps us avoid the worst of the weather and get the most from the grass growth, with our lambs being almost 100 per cent grass-fed.”
Love Lamb Week aims to increase sales of lamb meat in September, when most British lamb is sold.
“Easter is when most people buy lamb but at that time of the year it is more likely to be from the southern hemisphere. September is when most of our lamb is sold off the farm for meat.”
This is just one of the facts the National Sheep Association Next Generation Ambassador feels is not communicated to consumers.
“There’s not enough being done to sell our produce and it’s our own fault. We know what should be done but we don’t have marketing skills, creativity or contacts. However, Love Lamb Week brings together like-minded people to do something worthwhile for our industry.
“When people pick up a lamb leg steak in a supermarket, rugged coastlines and heather covered moorlands don’t typically spring to mind, but there’s a good chance that’s where the lamb they’re buying has been produced. I’d like consumers to be aware that when they’re buying lamb, they’re supporting some of our country’s most beautiful countryside.
“I’m proud to help people learn how important lamb is to our environment and our economy and I’d encourage everyone to get involved with Love Lamb Week.”
As the co-host of a countryside show on her local radio station, Kirree is passionate about communicating farming stories to the general public.
“Farmers have to be more open,” she says.
“Let the public come and see what goes on in modern working farms and what we do each day.
Gone are the days where you could stand and shout ‘get off my land’.
“Welcoming people and promoting what we do needs to be done at grass-roots level. If a person understands I think they would want to buy our produce more.”
Perfect for the weekend for the whole family to enjoy
Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: three hours; Serves: six
To cook medium: 25 minutes per 450g plus 25 minutes
To cook well done: 30 minutes per 450g plus 30 minutes
1 x 1.3kg lean whole or carvery lamb leg joint
Salt and pepper
For the garlic and herb butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed or 5-10ml/1-2tspn garlic puree
100g unsalted butter, softened
30ml freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
30ml freshly chopped chives
15ml freshly chopped tarragon
15ml plain flour
450ml good, hot lamb stock
150ml sweet cider