British Lamb and Mutton
Why buy British Lamb & Mutton?
- In Britain, some of the highest welfare standards in the world regulate the way that lamb and mutton are produced.
- No growth-promoting hormones are used to feed sheep in the UK and antibiotics are only used if prescribed by a vet.
- Breeding from livestock and genetics from breeds native to Britain are much sought after by farmers in other countries.
- The top 10 native British sheep breeds are: Hebridean, Black Welsh Mountain, Kerry Hill, Cheviot, Romney, Herwick, Suffolk, Swaledale, Rough Fell, Ryeland,
- The distance between each farm and shop is smaller than imported beef. This means fresher meat and less of a carbon footprint.
- Lamb is naturally rich in protein. Lamb provides four essential vitamins that help reduce tiredness and fatigue
- Buying British lamb and mutton supports British farmers. In turn, this helps keep the countryside how it looks today. No sheep: No countryside!
- Why buy British Lamb? It is a premium protein that plays a massive role in shaping our beautiful countryside.
How to tell if the meat is British?
Lamb or mutton labelled 'British' must come from animals born, reared and slaughtered within the UK. If you are not buying direct from a farmer you might find it helpful to look for a quality mark. These mean that all stages of the food chain have been independently checked to ensure that they meet the required standards.
The main Lamb and Mutton marks are below.
Quality Standard Lamb has been produced and processed through a fully assured independently audited supply chain. The quality standard mark for lamb is the only one to have standards relating to eating quality such as age, sex and, at certain times of the year, maturation. A St George's flag on the mark indicates that the meat has come from an animal born, raised and slaughtered in England. A union flag indicates it is born, raised and processed to the same standards but of UK origin.
The Scotch Lamb mark confirms that the animals have been born and reared for all of their lives on assured Scottish farms and that they have been slaughtered in an approved abattoir in Scotland. The standards are set by Quality Mark Scotland's assurance schemes. Scotch Lamb has been awarded the European PGI mark that recognises special regional significance and so the marks will often be accompanied by the PGI logo.
The Welsh Lamb mark can only appear on lamb that has been born and raised in Wales and that has been slaughtered in an approved abattoir. Welsh Lamb has been awarded the European PGI mark that recognises special regional significance and so the marks will often be accompanied by the PGI logo.
Where the Mutton Renaissance logo is used, the meat will have met the standards of the Mutton Renaissance campaign. One such standard is that maturing of the meat to ensure a full flavour.
For more information on logos and marks visit our Logos and Marks page.
Which cut of lamb & mutton is best?
We tend to equate 'eating quality' with tenderness and succulence. It is therefore important to use the correct cut of meat for a particular dish: for example, chop for pan-frying, shoulder for Sunday joints and neck for stewing.
To download a diagram of where different cuts of meat come from on the carcass and a guide to which cuts are the best ones to use for different regional dishes click the blue box on this page.
When to eat British lamb & mutton?
Although available all year round, British lamb & mutton are seasonal products.
Spring lamb is available from early spring until the summer. It is very tender but does not have as much flavour as lamb later in the year as it has not had as much time to graze. It should be cooked simply.
Autumn lamb is available from the summer until December. It has had more time to graze and grow thus developing stronger flavours that can take more adventurous cooking. Lamb from Christmas until the following spring is called ‘hogget’, though few retailers and caterers use this term. Hogget has a pronounced flavour, which works well with seasonal root vegetables.
Mutton is at least two years old. Mutton is available year-round but is best, and most readily available, from October until March. It has a much stronger, gamier flavour than lamb.
A favourite of the Duke of Wellington and Mrs Beeton, mutton was at one time more popular in the UK than beef, and was eaten in both palaces and cottages alike, across the country as it was considered superior in texture and flavour to lamb. Changes in farming and cooking lead to mutton’s sudden decline and for the last fifty years mutton has almost disappeared from our shops and restaurants. The Mutton Renaissance campaign was launched in 2004 by HRH The Prince of Wales to support British sheep farmers who were struggling to sell their older animals, and to get this delicious meat back on the nation’s plates.
The National Sheep Association is currently undertaking a project to assist existing and potential producers to expand the market for quality mutton, and to make it once again available to all. Much Ado About Mutton is an excellent book with a wealth of information about the meat.
Regional variations and flavour
Sheep spend most of their lives grazing outside and their flavour will be dictated by their diet and the environment in which they are reared. For example:
Mountain lamb spends all its life on the hills and mountains of Britain where plants, such as heather, influence its flavour. Hill and upland breeds are used and the lambs are smaller due to their environment.
Downland lamb grazes on a range of plants supported by the chalk-rich soil of the Downs. Lowland breeds are used and they have bigger carcasses.
Salt-marsh lamb grazes pastures that are regularly washed by the tide, which means that the lambs eat the unique plant species supported in those pastures, for example sea lavender and samphire.
It is important that we protect our great native livestock industry buy buying the real thing, not an imported substitute. For example:
Blackface is the most numerous breed in Britain and one of the hardiest, the vast majority are found in Scotland. The meat has a reputation for unrivalled sweetness and tenderness.
The Downland breeds hails from Southdown, Dorset Down, Oxford Down and Hampshire Down and are all noted for having high quality, succulent meat with good marbling and delicate, sweet, flavour.
Herdwick is the native breed of the central and western Lake District, they are a hardy of British breed that grazes on the highest of England’s mountains. Look out in particular for Herdwick Macon Ham: whole, smoked, cured hams made from the hind leg of Herdwick sheep. It has a pronounced gamy lamb flavour with herb undertones and a mild smokiness.
Portland sheep are native to the South West of England. The meat is of exceptionally high quality with fine texture and excellent flavour.
Welsh Mountain and Welsh Speckleface have full of flavours from the wild herbs on which the animals graze. The sheep are smaller than normal breeds, and as a result, the various joints of meat may be up to 30% smaller.
Sourcing Lamb and Mutton
There are many reasons to choose to source British. For example, it means the produce has travelled less from farm to shop, so regardless of how carbon footprints are calculated, it self-evidently has a lower carbon footprint. It also supports our farmers and economy.
There are also other factors to consider, such as the fact British animals are reared to some of the highest standards in the world:
- Britain's cattle passport system means that each animal can be uniquely traced to its dam (mother) and place of birth.
- No growth-promoting hormones are fed to sheep or beef cattle in the UK and any antibiotics are administered only under veterinary direction.
If you are ordering meat for trade, AHDB Beef and Lamb has put together a Meat Purchasing Guide which can be downloaded as an app. AHDB Beef and Lamb advise that it can simplify the meat ordering process and save businesses valuable time. Click herefor more information.
Remember when buying meat that as lifestyles have changed in the last few decades, so have the dishes that we eat and the cooking techniques used. As a result some cuts of meat have become ‘fashionable’ and this is reflected in their price.
If you are a retailer…including cheaper cuts of meat in the range you sell will attract new customers and may encourage existing customers to spend more in your shop.
If you are a caterer or in public procurement…using less fashionable cuts of meat is a simple way of increasing the profit from a dish.
Where to Source
The Co-op always support the UK farming industry and promoted British food. They have created long-term relationships with farmers and suppliers to give our customers complete transparency in the Co-op supply chain, built on honesty, fairness and trust. The Co-op Farming Groups, combined with a clear sourcing strategy, forecasts a great future for Co-op.Co-op supports nearly 2,000 UK farmers and have dedicated long-term relationships with more than 400 farmers all part of Co-op Farming Groups. These 400 carefully selected ‘foundation’ farms focus on growing and rearing animals to The Co-op’s high standards. They provide chicken, pork, Hereford and Aberdeen Angus beef, Cambrian lamb and milk, through a transparent supply chain. Since the establishment of The Co-operative Dairy Group in 2011, five additional Farming Groups to cover own-brand fresh British meat and poultry. Together, the six groups help to maintain strict animal welfare policies and encourage long-term investment and improvements to sustainability, efficiency and training. Co-op are committed to British Agriculture.
Lamb – All our fresh lamb and chilled prepared meals are sourced from farms in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and New Zealand (when British lamb is out of season). Our Truly Irresistible fresh lamb is produced from native breeds in the Cambrian Mountains of Mid Wales.
Freedom Food mark - http://www.freedomfood.co.uk/
Quality Standard mark - http://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/
Scottish lamb - http://www.qmscotland.co.uk/
Welsh lamb, contact Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales) at - http://hccmpw.org.uk/
HCC also have website aimed at encouraging butchers and retailers alike to gather more information about ways to promote Welsh red meat - www.hcctrade.co.uk
Welsh lamb and mutton - http://www.eatwelshlamb.co.uk/welsh-lamb
Herdwick lamb and mutton - http://www.herdwick-sheep.com/
Southdown lamb and mutton - http://www.southdownsheepsociety.co.uk/
Blackface lamb and mutton - http://www.scottish-blackface.co.uk/
Dorset Horn and Poll lamb and mutton - http://www.dorsetsheep.org.uk/
Portland lamb and mutton - http://www.portlandsheep.co.uk/
Black Welsh Mountain lamb and mutton - http://www.blackwelshmountain.org.uk/
Mutton - http://www.muttonrenaissance.org.uk/
Download the PDF: Lamb Fact Sheet