Sheep Event: Giving odd cuts a leg up

Legs, chops and steaks – they are cuts of lamb most consumers are familiar with, but what about the shank, shoulder and neck? When you’re marketing from home, it’s even more important to make the most of the carcass, but the key is knowing what to do with the less popular cuts.

And making the most from a carcass comes down to a few essential points – education, consumer confidence, knowing the market, butchery skills and presentation, says Abby Janaway, Newlyns Farm Shop, Hook, Hampshire. “When we have new-season lamb everyone wants a leg, but we are trying to educate the public that the shoulder is just as good and that it’s not an inferior cut,” she says.

That education is vital when it comes to selling different cuts, says Mrs Janaway who set up the farm shop along with the rest of the Janaway family six years ago. “We try to not stick to selling just the leg and shoulder, but many people are scared of different cuts as they assume just because they have seen something in a restaurant, such as a rack of lamb, that it must be hard to cook, but it’s not,” she says.

For this reason the shop provides free recipe cards – supplied by EBLEX – to help promote a whole range of cuts. “The butchers will also explain how to cook something to increase consumer confidence and they will also butcher different joints to make them easier to carve.”

Presentation of the meat in the chiller is also vital, says head butcher Terry Tarrant. “People buy with their eyes and when something looks good they are more likely to buy it. Some parts of the carcase are harder to sell than others, but by dicing lamb, making kebabs and rolling and stuffing shoulder joints as examples we can make these more appealing as they look good on display.”

Marinating different cuts and targeting specific seasons, such as the summer BBQ season, with different recipe ideas also helps sell less popular cuts.

“In the summer we will sell different flavour lamb kebabs and have even sold lamb sausages during the season. By getting different cuts from the forequarter we can essentially turn an unwanted product in to a value-added product,” he says.

TV programmes are also a driver for what is sold in the shop, comments Mr Tarrant. “Whether it’s from a cookery show or a food campaign such as those driven by Jamie Oliver or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall we often get a surge in demand for different cuts when they have appeared on TV.”

Any joints that don’t sell get used in ready meals, which the Janaway family sells in the shop. Mrs Janaway says: “With the ready meals we essentially pitch to two different markets – less-expensive and more-expensive dishes, with meals ranging from shepherds pie to lamb tagine. This means there is no wastage as everything even down to the bones is used to make stock, for example.”

And buying the whole animal, using it in this way is the most profitable route to take, says Mr Tarrant. “When you have the whole carcass to work with it simply means you can add value throughout the whole animal. You can lose a lot of value when the whole carcass isn’t used.”

Allowing customers to see behind the scenes, whether that’s in the farm shop or on farm is also important, adds Mrs Janaway. “We open our farm on several occasions in the year, allowing the customer to see where all our meat comes from as we are fortunate enough to be able to supply our own home-produced lamb, beef, pork or chicken. Consumers aren’t great at reading things which is why we open our doors to them.”

“Customer’s can also see through to butchery so they can see what goes on. This is important, as when it comes to meat quality how an animal is butchered is just as important as to how it is reared and killed. We just want to be open with the consumer.”

Farm shop lamb butchery and display competition

NSA and EBLEX are launching two new awards – the Best Farm Shop Award and the Best English Farm Shop Award, designed to test the skills of farm shop owners located throughout the UK selling lamb, together with those of their managers or butchers. Each entrant will be given one hour in which to prepare and display a variety of cuts from a whole dressed lamb carcase.

Judges for the competition which takes place in the Avon Hall will be looking for entrants who can demonstrate the best set of butchery skills, together with innovation and appealing presentation.

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