Morrisons has expanded its fresh meat offering to include New Zealand lamb in a bid to offer shoppers an “affordable alternative” to British lamb.

The imported lamb went into stores this week and is sold under a tertiary brand called The Fresh Taste of New Zealand. It will be available in Morrisons stores until June, when the retailer will switch back to 100% British supply for all fresh lamb.

All the major supermarkets sell imported lamb from New Zealand, but its appearance on Morrisons shelves is likely to raise eyebrows among UK livestock farmers given Morrisons’ high-profile commitment to selling 100% British meat under its own label. 

However, a spokesman for Morrisons stressed its listing of The Fresh Taste of New Zealand did not mean Morrisons had abandoned its commitment to 100% British, pointing out the New Zealand lamb was sold under a tertiary label and not the Morrisons own brand. It is also not the first time Morrisons has stocked New Zealand lamb under a tertiary label – it last did so in the spring of 2013.

“Our commitment to British farmers remains more significant than any other retailer,” he said. “Morrisons will still sell a higher percentage of British meat than any other major British supermarket and all Morrisons-branded fresh meat along with all of the meat sold from our in-store butchers’ counters will continue to be British.”

Until June, British fresh lamb would also continue to be available in Morrisons stores, with New Zealand lamb simply being a second option for shoppers, he added, stressing both products would be labelled with clear country-of-origin information. “In-season New Zealand lamb offers customers a great quality and affordable alternative to our British lamb, which will continue to be available in all stores. We’ll switch back to 100% British lamb at the beginning of June as it comes back into season.”

Morrisons’ decision to start selling The Fresh Taste of New Zealand range was first reported today in the weekly news bulletin of dairy industry expert Ian Potter of Ian Potter Associates.

Earlier this week, Morrisons reported a pre-tax loss of £176m for the year to 2 February, with turnover down by 2% to £17.7 billion. It announced a major investment drive in prices and promotions in a bid to fight back against the discounters.