A new website promoting mutton is being launched by Mutton Renaissance, the organisation campaigning to reintroduce the meat to the British dinner plate.

The launch is timed to coincide with the start of the mutton season, which begins on October 1 as sheep finished on better summer grass become available.

And for the first time, Mutton Renaissance is publishing a set of specifications to help farmers decide whether an animal is suitable for the kitchen or not.

Sheep must be at least two years old and with four broad teeth, but any breed can qualify. Fat cover must be 2L, 3L or 3H and permitted conformation grades are E, U, R and O.

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association and head of the Mutton Renaissance committee said: “Producers and others in the supply chain are expressing fresh interest in the finest quality mutton but until now they have lacked guidance.

“This new specification is clear about the age of the animals required and also advises processors to hang carcasses for two weeks to facilitate maturation.

“Farms have to be part of an assurance scheme and they will also be invited to join a new Mutton Renaissance Club that the NSA will co-ordinate.”

Mutton consumption is expected to show in increase on 2004, with dozens of top restaurants and nearly 50 butchers and mail-order outlets offering it.

For more details, visit www.muttonrenaissance.org.uk.