Promoting the quality of home grown lamb

Love Lamb Week launch at Thomas Moorehead's farm, Ballymena.
Love Lamb Week launch at Thomas Moorehead's farm, Ballymena.

The 1st September may be deemed a sad day for many kids going back to school, but for the sheep industry it is a time to celebrate the beginning of ‘Love Lamb Week’ which is taking place right across the United Kingdom until Wednesday, September 7.

Launched last year as a social media campaign by Cumbrian sheep farmer Rachel Lumley, ‘Love Lamb Week’ has gone from strength to strength and this year will see events hosted by farmers, butchers and restaurants in many parts of the UK in a bid to highlight the importance of home produced lamb to consumers.

In recent times lamb has found itself as the ugly duckling of the meat world. While often thought of as that Sunday treat it is perhaps less favoured by the consumer for those every day meals which are quick and easy to cook. This has seen lamb languish at the bottom of the UK meat consumption table, with consumption estimated at 5kg per capita in 2015. While this has been marginally increasing over the last few years, lamb consumption is still well behind beef at 18kg per capita, pork at 25kg per capita and poultry meat at 35kg per capita.

In questioning why this is the case, often surveys of the general public will return answers such as ‘it’s too expensive’, ‘takes too long to cook’ and ‘it’s too fatty.’ Funnily enough a few conversations with sheep farmers at the market the other evening leads me to understand we’ll have to try and convert them back to eating more of their own product as well.

This all brings us back round to the importance of ‘Love Lamb Week.’ Creating an appetite for greater lamb consumption is hugely important in the context of sustaining better prices for farmers and ensuring that we maintain a viable sheep industry. While the exchange rate is a massive factor in driving demand, this is something outside our control and we must focus on those areas which we can manage.

From a farming perspective producing the lamb the market wants is number one and ensuring that lamb products are properly marketed comes in at number two.

Farmers in Northern Ireland are producing quality lamb to some of the highest animal welfare and environmental standards in the world. The land management techniques farmers use in particular play an important role in shaping our much valued landscape and this is reflected in the growing number of tourists coming to Northern Ireland every year to experience our beautiful countryside. We must utilise these skills that farmers have as part of our campaign to promote local lamb but we must also show consumers that lamb is not just a product for the Sunday roast, it is also a tasty, convenient meat which can be used every day.

This concept of tasty, convenient and versatile lamb has been captured well by the LMC when they recently launched an excellent advert titled ‘Flavour Your Life’ which has been running on media channels and you can find on their website www.beefandlambni.com. The focus of the advert is to show the general public that lamb can be that every day versatile product which they can use in today’s fast moving lifestyle. This sums up a lot of what ‘Love Lamb Week’ is about as well and as part of this event the UFU has embarked on a PR campaign over the next few days to celebrate home produced lamb.

We will also be hosting a cooking demonstration and sampling event at Belfast city hall on Tuesday, September 6, between the hours of noon and 3pm to catch the attention of busy shoppers and workers which will hopefully encourage them to buy lamb on their next shop or visit to a restaurant.

All farmers are welcome as well, especially those we need to convert to eating more lamb!