Survey finds low awareness of mutton products

Confidence among mutton producers is buoyant, with high levels of innovation and a wide variety of products on the market. However, not enough consumers know about the benefits of mutton and some producers struggle to find a market for the whole carcase.

These are some of the initial findings of a survey carried out by the National Sheep Association as part of a project to support and promote the mutton industry.

The Make More of Mutton project, which is sponsored by meat bodies Eblex, Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales and the Livestock and Meat Commission of Northern Ireland, was launched last October. Average confidence levels of those who responded are 3.5 out of 5.

Project manager Bob Kennard said those responding to the survey so far were mostly sheep farmers retailing their own mutton in small volumes.

The markets for mutton identified are wide-ranging, with respondents to the survey selling from farm shops, farmers markets, butchers and other retail premises, by mail order, wholesale, pubs and restaurants and other caterers, said Kennard.

There was great innovation, illustrated by the responses, with about a quarter of producers supplying various cured and smoked mutton products, and most offering a wide variety of fresh mutton cuts. Between them, the initial respondents offered mutton from 20 breeds of sheep.

Problems highlighted include variable quality of carcases and many producers finding it hard to retail the entire carcase. The survey also raised issues such as a lack of availability of local abattoirs and difficulty in recruiting skilled butchers.

This information is vital to enable more development within the industry, Kennard said. So far, the Make More of Mutton project already offers point-of-sale material and three upcoming regional mutton events. A dedicated website is under construction at www.makemoreofmutton.org.uk and more activity will come on-stream in the coming months.

Farmers, processors, retailers and caterers involved in the quality mutton supply chain can still take part in the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/nsamutton. The more information we can gather directly from those involved in the sector, the better we can target our future resources, Kennard said.

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