NSA event shows potential of quality mutton

Mutton is a meat with great potential, but quality is essential. That was the message from an event for practitioners of the quality mutton supply chain, held today (Thursday 20th August) at the Well Hung Meat Company in South Devon.

The event was part of the NSA’s ‘Make More of Mutton’ initiative, the purpose of which is to assist existing and potential mutton producers to expand the market for the meat. An existing producer who supported the event was Tim Budden, whose Higher Hacknell Farm has been producing mutton for many years. It was not simply a potential disposal route for normal cull ewes, he said, but a specialised quality market requiring well-fleshed and well-finished animals.

Quality was also the watchword when processing and selling mutton for another speaker, Tom Bourne of the Well Hung Meat Company. Carcase selection, careful hanging and butchery, as well as attractive presentation were all important elements of successful marketing of the meat, he said. But if done well, the experience of Well Hung Meat showed the superb eating experience would bring customers back again and again.

Someone who has also been championing quality mutton from her kitchen at Percy’s Restaurant, Beaworthy, Devon, is Tina Bricknell-Webb. She explained that while slow-roasting and stews were a classic and delicious way to cook mutton, with the best quality meat and selected cuts in skilled hands, fast-cooking could also produce superb results, demonstrating the versatility of quality mutton.

To demonstrate this versatility, as well as the depth and complexity of quality mutton’s flavour, local chef Tom Welch produced a range of delicious mutton dishes to round off the event.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, said afterwards: “This event has demonstrated admirably that the eating quality of the final product depends on producing quality – on the farm, during processing and in its retailing and catering. If done well all along the chain, the consumer can rely on enjoying a superb meat dish every time, and experience an almost lost gem of British cookery. Our recent survey of the quality mutton sector has shown it is in generally good heath, with increasing demand, so the future looks very positive.

“NSA is grateful to AHDB Beef and Lamb, HCC and LMCNI for financing this mutton initiative, which we hope will assist in the development of a quality ewe market, with price stability for hard-pressed sheep farmers.”

The event marked the launch of the Make More of Mutton’s website www.nsamutton.org.uk. Bob Kennard, NSA Make More of Mutton Project Manager, said: “The website will assist in our aim of passing on technical information to the quality mutton supply chain, and to improve communication along the chain. The website has: a section on point-of-sale material for quality mutton retailers; a market place for anyone in the supply chain looking to sell or buy quality mutton; and a section on the latest scientific data on mutton as a meat and a farm product.

“Our recent survey confirmed there is a need for such a channel of communication and, as time goes on, the information in this resource will expand. We hope practitioners in the supply chain will make use of it in various ways to improve the availability of quality mutton.”

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