Major retailers have come under fire for stocking more New Zealand lamb at the expense of in-season British lamb.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) said for profit reasons alone, some of the main UK supermarkets were choosing to stock more NZ lamb because it enabled them to make a bigger margin.
“Once one big retailer does this the others follow like sheep,” said NSA chief executive Phil Stocker.
“It is very disappointing to see this lack of interest in quality and such a short-sighted approach to supply chains.”
British weather, new techniques, our range of land types and diversity of farms allows our supply of high-quality lambs to run throughout the year, he added.
And in a further insult to British farmers, Mr Stocker pointed out that many lambs come to the market between July and December, which contributed to the sheep industry’s “seasonal harvest where availability and quality come together”.
He said the peak of UK lamb production runs through the autumn and early winter months and the trough runs from late winter to late spring, when New Zealand lamb has traditionally complemented our trough.
But despite the current high availability of UK lamb, Mr Stocker said some of the main retailers, which he chose not to name, were selling products they could make a bigger return on.
“With the quantity of UK lamb available, the quality at this time of year and new lamb cuts that suit modern recipes, there is little excuse for not seeking out British lamb and celebrating the quality of what has been an almost perfect harvest this year,” he added.
Mr Stocker said he was “appalled” that some retailers were giving inaccurate information to consumers, including telling them they cannot source British lamb at this time of the year.
Therefore, the NSA is urging supermarkets to think more about their supply chains and support their domestic market for quality lamb.
Mr Stocker said: “If we want to ensure UK consumers retain confidence in our retail structure then our retailers should do more to establish dedicated and committed supply from our farmers. This really could be a matter of ‘use it or lose it’.”