Editor's Comment by Ed Beddington

The lamb sector is an interesting area at the moment, with farmers undoubtedly enjoying the high prices. Indeed, one supermarket buyer joked the other day that Ferrari was planning a showroom in Builth Wells!

But with many processors in the sector muttering about sustainability, is the industry simply creating a boom and bust economy within the lamb sector?

The export market is currently gobbling up the lamb, with our weak sterling status giving lamb suppliers a competitive edge. But will the escalating prices at the farm gate price us out of the export front? And, perhaps more of an issue, what happens when sterling bounces back against the euro and the dollar?

I can understand farmers wanting to make hay while the sun shines, but smash and grab is never the right way to build a long-term sustainable business.If the export market collapses, the lamb sector will be left with a surplus of overpriced lamb and consumers out of the habit of picking it up from the supermarket or butcher.

We've had butchers talk about lamb not as a business, but a hobby, processors are pointing out that it is too expensive to kill, and we're seeing some major suppliers even having to cut back on operations. So the warning signs are there but is anyone going to pay any attention to them?

While I'm talking about sustainability, it was interesting to contrast two stories this week one the fall in sales for organic, and the other the rising demand for welfare-friendly poultry. Organic has often attempted to position itself as an ethical product, but the sales story during the time of recession suggests that is a myth. People do not buy organic food for ethical reasons; it is simply a lifestyle choice. If it were ethical, then surely organic would have seen the same sort of success as the rising sales in welfare poultry.

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