Over two-thirds of Scottish retailers support local lamb, though more work to be done

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland’s Shelf Watch Survey has indicated a variance in the amount of Scottish lamb available in some of the country’s largest retailers. 

The secret shopper research took place in 35 stores across Scotland, with 3,241 packs of fresh lamb being counted. Research found that two-thirds of the lamb offerings on supermarket shelves were Scottish or British. However, NFU Scotland said that this figure could be significantly improved with the support of retailers. Although Scottish lambing production traditionally falls towards the start of spring, the union declared that farmers believed there was enough local lamb to populate store shelves and meet year-round demand.

It highlighted that there was still a significant amount of imported lamb available to Scottish consumers, although some strengthening of support was recognised. Among those supporting local lamb is Marks & Spencer, which is honouring its commitment to exclusively sell home-produced lamb. Aldi and Lidl have also demonstrated a high level of support for the meat.

“With lambing just around the corner, Scottish farmers, crofters and shoppers will be happy to hear that most stores visited had Scottish and British lamb in stock and I would encourage anyone to buy Scottish lamb and support local food production,” said Charlie Adam, livestock committee chairman for NFU Scotland.

On the other end of the scale, the union said it was disappointed at Morrisons’ performance. Despite recently announcing it would search for the best of British producers to supply it, the retailer showed a “worrying” volume of imported lamb during the latest Shelf Watch.

A Morrisons satement said: "As has alway s been the case, all year round and in all stores, 100% of Morrisons branded fresh lamb is British. As we have in previous years, we will run a handful of non-Morrisons branded promotions between Christmas and Easter when we sell a small amount of non-British lamb.

"This is because of a large volume of one cut (the leg) is being sold out of balance to the rest of the carcass. Again, the country of origin is very clearly labelled and the product is sold away from the counter."

NFU Scotland said it had contacted the retailer concerning the matter, as well as continuing to press Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, The Co-op and Waitrose for a strengthened commitment to Scottish lamb.

“Some members taking part in this latest Shelf Watch were justifiably angry at the levels of imported lamb in certain stores,” added Adam. “We have contacted those retailers, not just expressing our concerns, but to point out the great support that others are showing to Scottish sheep producers and their customers through their lamb sales.

“It is positive to see the continued commitment to sourcing Scottish and British lamb from Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl and this must be commended. Members found that The Co-op carried very little home-produced lamb, but it is important to note that it has committed to exclusively sourcing home-produced lamb for its supply chain from May onwards.

“As well as working with supermarkets to increase the amount of our lamb on shop shelves, we also want to see what we can do collectively to increase lamb consumption in Scotland and we look forward to working with supermarkets to achieve this in the future, building on Scotch Lamb promotions and the many lamb tastings that NFU Scotland and others have held around the country in recent years,” explained Adam.

“Overall, our shelf watchers found 69% of the lamb on shelves was produced in the UK and we want to see this proportion rise in future years. We continue to urge our members to keep an eye on shop shelves and let us know both good news and bad news on Scottish lamb being offered.”

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