Lamb and Mutton
All Co-op 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.Why buy British Lamb & Mutton?
British lamb & mutton is produced to some of the highest welfare standards in the world. No growth-promoting hormones are fed to sheep in the UK and
any antibiotics are administered only under veterinary direction.
Britain's sheep industry is the envy of the world: breeding from livestock and genetics from our native breeds are much sought after by farmers in other countries.
British lamb & mutton travels less far from farm to shop so regardless of how carbon footprints are calculated it self-evidently has a lower carbon footprint. Choosing British lamb & mutton means supporting British farmers whose work helps to keep the British countryside the way we want it to look: no sheep - no 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.
When looking to purchase lamb, keep an eye out for marks such as the Red Tractor logo
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.
More information on sourcing British lamb & muttonDownload the PDF: Lamb Fact Sheet