Mutton revival gives lift to upland sheep farmers

Mutton is hopefully one step closer to becoming a more common fixture on the nation’s dinner plates after Prince Charles launched a new food chain initiative at The Ritz hotel last week.

The Mutton Renaissance Club is the next step in the development of the Mutton Renaissance, which began in 2004 by trying to find outlets for sheep farmers’ older animals and reawakening the public’s interest in sheep meat.

Talking to the audience of farmers, retailers, caterers and chefs, the Prince said: “I want to do everything I can to support our farmers, especially those in the uplands. The most stunning scenery is often the hardest to farm.”

Since the launch of the campaign, mutton has made something of a comeback as top-end restaurants like The Ritz and Le Gavroche start to incorporate it into their menus.

But National Sheep Association policy director John Thorley said: “There is much more to do.

It is clear some chefs are being asked to pay a relatively high price for mutton but few farmers are seeing an uplift in returns.”

Though mainstream retail demand for the meat is weak, it is rising, according to some smaller stores at the event who said consumers tried to copy the recipes used by celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay.

Mark and Kirstie Banham who farm on the Surrey Downs said lots more people were asking for mutton at the farmers’ markets they attended.