British Heritage Sheep is a scheme that celebrates the subtlety contrasting tastes and provenance of native sheep breeds found in the UK, and the wider benefits they bring to the countryside. And this Love Lamb Week, the initiative is encouraging UK consumers to enjoy the varied and delicious eating qualities of native breed sheep meat.

Love Lamb Week is an annual celebration of naturally delicious UK lamb and the sustainable farming methods that produce it. The weeklong campaign starts this week from Friday 1 September 2023.

National Sheep Association (NSA) Chief Executive and advocate of British Heritage Sheep, Phil Stocker says: “Love Lamb Week is a great opportunity to champion the UK sheep sector and that includes promoting the delicious product of some of the UK’s native and lesser-known breeds, and the special eating qualities they can offer consumers.

“This Love Lamb week NSA and the British Heritage Sheep scheme would like to see the UK’s native breeds identified and celebrated. Why not try a Southdown Shepherds pie or a Lonk leg of lamb – I’m sure you will find it delicious!”

Across the UK local farm shops, butchers and farms offering direct sales can be a good option for consumers looking to source meat from native breeds.

Bob Kennard, one of the directors of British Heritage Sheep adds: “Not all sheep meat tastes the same, the difference in flavour is very much evident between some breeds such as the iconic Herdwick [pictured above] that grazes the famous Lake District fells and the historic Ryeland of Herefordshire, one of the oldest of the established native breeds. The main factors affecting the flavour are the age of the animal, its breed and to some extent what the animal eats. These factors give the meat of different breeds distinctive eating experiences, highly prized in past generations.

Despite more than 80 native and other sheep breeds being recognised in the UK the varied flavours that these can deliver to consumers are rarely acknowledged and the diverse landscapes from which they are produced rarely identified to consumers when purchasing lamb in a supermarket or enjoying a lamb dish in a restaurant.

Mr Kennard continues: “Sheep meat is one of the last undifferentiated foods. We all know about the many types of cheese, apples, breeds of beef and so on, but retailers rarely inform consumers about the breed of sheep meat, nor do they explain where and how it was reared, nor offer meat of differing ages.”

The British Heritage Sheep initiative aims to change this by working to increase the awareness and promotion of the ABC of sheep meat – A for the age of sheep from which the meat comes, B for the sheep breed, and C, for the countryside/region it has been farmed.

Through this work, it will offer consumers a wider range of sheep meat and new flavour experiences, strengthen the unique roles of UK native sheep breed characteristics, help rural communities, protect the environment, make a positive asset of the country’s agricultural heritage, and enhance the beautiful landscapes that many UK sheep farms call home.

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