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Royal Campaign For Mutton Helps To Groom Britain's Beautiful Rural Landscapes
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will formally launch the Renaissance Mutton season on 14 September during a visit to a farm in North Yorkshire.
The vital role that sheep play in grazing British hillsides, and the habitat management that this delivers, will be a key theme in the season’s activities. Generations of farmers and their flocks have sculpted upland Britain and a growing market for mutton will ensure the future of the moors and fells, which are so cherished by millions of people in this country.
The Mutton Renaissance Campaign is The Prince of Wales's personal initiative which he launched in 2004 to re-introduce a long-forgotten meat back to the nation’s dinner plates. His objective was to create a new market opportunity for British family farmers.
Since then, the campaign has achieved considerable success with over 300 businesses now involved in the production, processing and supply of quality mutton. Many of these are small farms from upland areas that sell their mutton direct from the farm or at a market.
Others include leading restaurants where top chefs such as Brian Turner CBE, Mark Hix, John Williams and Jeremy Lee have celebrated their meat’s taste credentials.
John Thorley OBE, chairman of the Mutton Renaissance Club and policy director of the National Sheep Association comments: “A sustainable niche market for quality mutton is now emerging and this gives sheep farmers more reasons to keep their animals grazing the hills. By doing this, the sheep perform many hidden roles. This includes grooming rural landscapes to keep them open and accessible for visitors and discouraging the spread of dangerous parasites such as ticks.”
Well-known Yorkshire chef Brian Turner CBE, is the president of the Academy of Culinary Arts, one of the organisations that has been at the heart of the Mutton Renaissance campaign. He says: “The best mutton is a meat with a distinct flavour but one that had been almost forgotten until HRH the Prince of Wales stepped in. His passion for farming and good food has encouraged chefs to reappraise mutton and what a treasure we are discovering.
“Its subtle gamey flavour is an ideal partner for autumn root vegetables, long slow cooking and an equal match for spiced dishes from North Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. It’s also great in curries.
“Over the months ahead, I hope to see it more frequently on seasonal menus and also in butchers shops as demand increases from home cooks.”
Tim Wilson, a farmer in North Yorkshire and owner of butchers shops in London adds: “In 2003, my flock was half the size it is today and I knew that I could sell all of our older ewes through our own butchers shops; about 100 each year. Today, with a much bigger flock, the growing interest in quality mutton means that I’ll sell 400 ewes this year.
“Renaissance Mutton encourages a focus on quality and through this, increased animal welfare as we send well-finished ewes to local abattoirs in small batches. We then use the whole carcase, from primal joints for slow roasting or braising to all the minor cuts that we use in casseroles, pies and sausages.
“By finding a niche market for these ewes, the Mutton Renaissance campaign has increased the value of older stock to farms such as this.”
A report (see Notes to Editors) shows that the market for quality mutton can continue to achieve steady growth. Before the launch of the campaign, consumption of this type of mutton was considered to be minimal. In the report, released earlier this year, the market was estimated at up to 1000 tonnes (34,000 carcases), with this volume being valued at around £2 million at retail level.
Stretching from the autumn months until the end of March, the season marks the period when Renaissance Mutton is at its best after enjoying a diet of summer grasses and heather and an extended maturation period.
The Mutton Renaissance Campaign is co-ordinated by the National Sheep Association and the Academy of Culinary Arts and is supported by the English Beef & Lamb Executive and Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales.