The NFU has challenged retailers, including Tesco and the Co-operative, to back British farmers and source more new-season British lamb.
The union’s call comes after it obtained figures from EBLEX that suggest some supermarkets are still choosing to stock New Zealand lamb – despite 11% more British lambs coming to market compared to this time last year.
Morrisons, Asda, Lidl and Aldi have come in for praise from the NFU for all having stocked more than 75% British lamb in the last quarter.
However, other retailers, including the Co-operative and Tesco, have “disappointing” levels of British lamb on their shelves – with only about 20% home sourced.
“It’s clear that Morrisons, Asda, Lidl and Aldi have done far better than others,” said NFU president Peter Kendall.
“Although the decisions to source New Zealand lamb were taken last year, it is particularly disappointing to see the figures for Tesco who, despite re-affirming their pledge to source more of their meat ‘closer to home’, are shown to have stocked only about 20% UK-sourced lamb in the last quarter – even though British lamb is now at its freshest and tastiest.”
Sheep farmers, especially those in the uplands, have faced a challenging year, with difficult weather, high input prices and volatile markets.
The poor spring delayed the normal marketing pattern for lambs later into the season and has left many producers facing substantially higher feed bills to get the lambs ready for market.
But with new-season British lamb now readily available, Mr Kendall believes it should be at the centre of any supermarket display.
“British farmers expect retailers to be marketing British lamb to the consumer as ‘best in season’ at the moment, not continuing to sell mature New Zealand lamb in place of tender, new-season lamb produced right here in the UK,” Mr Kendall added.
Looking ahead to next year, Mr Kendall said it was vital that retailers took decisions to reflect commitments made to British farmers in recent months.