M&S has committed to buying British lamb out of season provided farmers can guarantee quality.

Chief executive Stuart Rose made the pledge at the NFU conference after he was challenged on M&S’s policy of buying New Zealand lamb to fill the six-month gap when British lamb was being reared.

“We will commit to extending the season if the quality is there,” he said, adding that in the past, M&S had looked at off-season lamb but “could not get the quality” it was looking for.

However, he stressed, while supporting British produce was part of M&S’s Plan A, it also had to consider relationships with farmers in the developing world.

Meanwhile, Delia Smith’s latest book How To Cheat At Cooking had increased sales of tinned minced lamb by 200% and tinned minced beef by 60%, he said.

The new M&S Ingredients range had created strong demand for UK and Irish-sourced diced lamb, fresh pork, and fresh chicken pieces, he added.