3 March 2000

Year-round quality

lamb…and born in Yorkshire

A NEW chapter in the production and marketing of lamb was opened recently with the launch of Yorkshire Lamb by Lord Lindsay, chairman of Assured British Meat.

The new brand should be in the shops from June 1 and will continue to build, eventually supplying markets year round.

The initiative was launched at Skipton Auction mart, which already has a large and successful direct deadweight marketing scheme that has expanded over the past two years.

Jeremy Eaton, an auctioneer with Craven Cattle Marts, says Yorkshire Lamb evolved on a partnership basis. "Two years ago, when live lambs were down to 60p and below, we knew we had to act to try and get a better return for producers. Historically, this has been a strong brokering/dead-weight area, and we set about developing this area of our activity.

"The catalyst for further action came when we had a producer meeting in the spring of last year with Mike Barton from the development agency, One Northeast, which has been funding the Northern Dales Red Meat Initiative. As a consequence we have continued to look both at dead-weight sales and also private procurement live, and prepared prices for procurement from live assessment.

"If we can cut waste for the processor, and also deliver the lambs when he wants them so that he has even supplies and production throughout the week, it cuts his costs and offers scope for the producer to get a better price."

The scheme started to take off and last autumn the group was supplying 2000-2500 lambs a week on a private procurement basis.

This built up with support from the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Craven District Council. Lord Lindsay has now stamped the first carcass to launch the Yorkshire Lamb brand.

Mr Eaton is procurement director for the new group. "Yorkshire Lamb marks a new chapter in lamb production and marketing, giving new hope to livestock farmers. For the first time from June 1 we will be able to offer suppliers and consumers year-round quality- assured lamb with the added security of carrying the Yorkshire Lamb branding.

"The size of Yorkshire means we can have a strong regional brand just as the Scots and Welsh have.

"By forming the Yorkshire Lamb Producers Club, farmers will work with suppliers to deliver to the market place what is required, when it is required – effectively cutting wastage from processing and ultimately providing a more cost effective product to the consumer."

But setting up a brand is not easy. To satisfy North Yorkshire Trading Standards department, a Yorkshire Lamb must have been born in the county and spent at least one grazing season (six months) there.

All participants of the YLPC must be farm assured by either FABBL, FAWL or SQBLA assurance schemes. They will be required to tag lambs at birth. The tags – which must be ordered via Skipton Auction Mart – will denote the breeders number, and the Yorkshire Lamb participants number.

Provided the above criteria are fulfilled, the lamb could spend a period as a store or finishing outside the county, but it must be returned to Yorkshire before being transported to the processor. Administration and the primary collection centre will be at Skipton.

Membership of YLPC is accounted for by a marketing deduction of £1.75 a lamb to cover all levies and marketing charges and promotional support. The topography of Yorkshire, with the divide between the upland stock producing areas and the traditional finishing areas, lends the county to the year-round supply of primestock,"Mr Eaton claims.

"We have had very encouraging talks with potential purchasers, including a chain of butchers in the north east and a supermarket chain. However, until we can ensure continuity of supply over a 52 week period we are not in a position to secure the contracts," he cautions.

"Once we get that critical mass there is scope for further branding, such as New Season, and area brands such as Dales or Moors and so on.

"This scheme is producer-driven not processor-led, but we have to be aware what the processors want. If only 60% of lamb going into a plant meets the specification, the other 40% costs money to get rid of and we cant have that.

"We will be going through retailers, and bone and pack for mail order and via the internet."