This week has been designated Love Lamb Week 2017 and the National Sheep Association (NSA) is doing all it can do to get behind celebrating everything that is tasty about British lamb.
Now in its third year, the week-long initiative has brought together a dedicated week of lamb promotional activity from farmers, butchers and retailers.
Leading the way are the NSA Next Generation Ambassadors, a group of young sheep farmers passionate about producing quality British lamb from all corners of the UK.
One of these ambassadors is 27-year-old Caryl Hughes, who farms with her parents at Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog on the Berwyn Mountains in the Ceiriog Valley.
“As Next Generation ambassadors, it is our job to promote the sheep industry and be the face of the industry for our areas,” she explains.
“We can also use our experice and knowledge of the industry to try and influence policy in agriculture and get our voices out there heard. We also get to learn from other ambassadors to benefit our own sheep business.”
As well as encouraging farmers like Caryl to get involved in the campaign, NSA is working closely with AHDB Beef & Lamb and other industry bodies around Love Lamb Week to get consumers on board with how easy and versatile lamb is to cook with.
“British lamb is so unique,” says Caryl, who diplomaticaly chooses both her grandmothers’ lamb casserole recipes as her favourite lamb dish.
“It’s produced in some of the highest welfare conditions in the world.
“British lamb, especially breeds like the Welsh Mountain and the Swaledale, produce low fat, lean meat that is not only highly nutritious but is really healthy as well. This is because the lambs are produced off mainly grass-based systems in the uplands and have very little inputs.
“I always say to people ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it’. How nice would it be to see a McDonald’s lamb burger reguarly available for example?”
The challenges facing sheep farming globally are remarkably similar and revolve around genetics, health, nutrition and sustainability.
“With a stagnation in sheep meat consumption per person combined with an acceleration in the consumption of white meats, Caryl insists promoting lamb is vital.
“There are so many variables that effect the sheep industry, from the weather to the Euro, to New Zealand’s economy and what the French fancy eating,” she says.
“Things can be tough but we only usually judge it by the price we get for our lamb in the market that week. If we look at the overall cost of production per kilogramme or against per hectare then things look different and hopefully better.
“We as farmers could do a lot more promoting our product better and being more engaging with the public in order to advertise our product more and get lamb higher on the menu for the public.”
Even more worrying for many farmers is the looming spectre of Brexit and what impact that will have on Welsh trade with the rest of the world.
“Brexit is going to have quite a big effect on our business but with every challenge, opportunities arise,” says Caryl, with the kind of response that would be music to David Davis’ ears.
“The sheep industry need to start thinking smarter and fast. For my own personal business, the risk of losing markets for the smaller lambs in Europe is a big worry. But that’s where we as a younger generation need to step up and use our commnication powers to engage more with the public and tell our story and explain why we have smaller lambs and hopefully try and change the publics market choices.
“As farmers we can also experiment with other breeds and varieties of grasses that could produce a larger framed lamb or fatten lambs quicker for us, for example crossing a Welsh Mountain ewe with a Cheviot ram or putting in more red clover and chicory layers into the sward.”
NSA has been encouraging individuals to get involved at whatever level they can, be that hosting or supporting local or
on-farm events, online via parenting advice website Mumsnet or by sharing their delicious lamb dinner on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtags #LoveLamb and #LoveLambWeek.
A range of resources to support this are available via www.national sheep.org.uk/lovelamb
Nick White, Head of Beef and LambMarketing at AHDB, added: “Shoppers are looking for easy ways to cook healthy food.
“To increase their love for lamb, we’ve created simple recipes with lamb leg steaks, which can be cooked in no time at all – whether that be on the barbecue, as part of a curry or even added to a salad.
“A partnership with Mumsnet this year aims to take the worry out of cooking lamb, helping mums and dads to learn how to cook this versatile meat for their kids and develop Britain’s next generation of lamb lovers.”