Growing demand for locally produced, fully traceable food has led to a doubling of throughput for Sussex-based company South Downs Lamb and Beef.

“We’ve been going for only two years, but the demand for local food is huge,” managing director Chris Clark told Farmers Weekly at last weekend’s launch of the West Sussex Food and Drink Festival at Amberley, near Arundel.

“In our first year we handled about 500 lambs and last year this had increased to 4500. But this year we are on target to reach 10,000.”

The group currently takes lambs for 14 farmers in the West Sussex area and is supplying about 30 butchers in the region.

All animals are sired by either South Down or Hampshire Down rams and have to be grazed within the South Downs area. Much play is made in the group’s marketing material of the benefit that extensive sheep grazing brings to the region’s environmentally sensitive land. High animal welfare and traceability are also guaranteed.

“The feedback from butchers is that this is what their customers want, and this is what we deliver.”

There are also financial benefits for farmer shareholders in the form of a premium price that is fixed for the whole season. “This year we are paying £2.70/kg for an R3L carcass, with bonuses for better grades.

Our prices are linked to the retail price rather than the market price, and this tends to go upwards.”