Breaking Dawn

Welsh sheep farmers are benefitting from a deal to supply their hill-farmed meat to Marks & Spencer through Dawn Meats.

A deal was struck five years ago between the group of farmers, who rear the hardy Brecknock Hill Cheviot breed around the Brecon Beacons, and M&S, which stocks the meat as part of its speciality range.

Local farmer Gethin Havard, a member of the Brecknock Hill Cheviot Breed Society, took the initiative in 2000 and contacted the M&S meat department. "They were interested and put us in touch with Ursula Taylor at Dawn Meats, their partner processor. It was a steep learning curve for all of us, but here we are, five years later, with sales of 10,000 lambs last season and looking to beat that handsomely in the season that starts in August," he said.

There are now 48 farmers involved, all of whom have committed to the deal. The product is sold against a seasonal forecast, agreed by all three parties before the season begins.

This initiative has attracted the interest of the Welsh Assembly, who invited Havard and Rob Cumine, who looks after agriculture for M&S, to discuss long-term options for supporting the sustainability of farming and the environment. "There was a great deal of immediate interest," said Cumine, "to focus on consistency for customers and sustainability for our farmers."

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