Hill farmers have welcomed a strategy by Sainsbury's to boost lamb consumption, but called on retailers to take further steps to clear the glut of light lamb - smaller animals that are usually exported
Sainsbury's is introducing two lines on Monday (15 October), which it says will account for an extra 10,000 light lambs by the end of the year, bringing relief tofarmers struggling with foot and mouth export
restrictions. The lines are a quarter lamb pack - a leg, a shoulder or chops - and a 'cushion' of boned shoulder.
"We recognise the traditional export market for British lamb is partially closed, so we are working hard to drive customer demand for British lamb," said Sainsbury's fresh foods director Karen Schenstrom. "Sainsbury's is fully committed to supporting British lamb farmers at this difficult time and offers an immediate lifeline for farmers until exports fully resume."
The retailer will be running promotions to shift more volume and is handing out free rosemary to accompany purchases of lamb from its meat counters. It has also printed 100,000 lamb recipe cards .
Asda launched a similar lamb pack in the wake of the August FMD outbreak and reported sales that beat all expectations. "The lamb pack has been so successful we've decided to keep it on as a standard line," a spokeswoman said. "We expect to sell the equivalent of 12,000 extra light lambs by Christmas."
National Sheep Association boss Peter Morris agreed price promotions had a role to play but called for further measures .
"This is one of a range of things that can be done to increase consumption during the FMD restrictions, and we wish the retailers luck," he said. "We want British retailers to have the confidence to stay with British lamb longer than the usual season and delay the switch to New Zealand supplies until after Christmas."
That comment will raise Antipodean hackles after New Zealand and British lamb producers encroached on each other's seasonal supply windows this year, causing prices to plummet.