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Overlooked mutton set to boost region's sheep farmers

[Monday 18 December 2006]
swaledale sheep
Mutton could boost Dales farmers

THE Yorkshire Dales based organiser of a project to improve sales of mutton and give a boost to the region's hill farms has two special events planned for early next year.

Mutton, meat which comes from older sheep, is regaining popularity as chefs and cooks seek to return to more traditional dishes with strong regional provenance - a unique selling point for Dales farmers who are well placed to offer consumers the traceability they desire.

The 'Live to Dead' mutton slaughter selection training day, on January 10, is aimed at farmers and restaurateurs, says project manager, Nick White.

He will be asking delegates to predict quality grading levels on a dozen live sheep at the Whitley Bay Meat Supply Company in Cramlington, Northumberland. Following slaughter, the carcases will be classified by an expert grader.

A second event on February 19 includes a mutton cookery demonstration, with a taste-testing session to follow. Held at Newcastle College's Rye Hill campus, the programme will see some of the region's top chefs serving up a selection of their favourite mutton dishes for guests at lunchtime.

Mr White, of Richmond based WKD Consulting, says mutton has historically suffered from a poor image, although he believes the product has great potential.

"In the past, mutton has been seen as a tough meat that is only fit for slow cooking. However meat from younger animals is actually very tender, and chefs who have tried it report that it has a fantastic flavour."

...If we succeed, it could give hill farmers a new opportunity in the
marketplace

Nick White - WKD Consulting

The north-east mutton project, which was launched this past autumn, could help to improve the profitability of the region's hill farms, many of which are struggling to survive at present, adds Mr White.

"Our task is to gather information about how to produce and brand a high-quality mutton that will appeal to the public. We need to put forward a tightly-specified mutton product that will command a premium price. If we succeed, it could give hill farmers a new opportunity in the marketplace."

The Live to Dead' event starts at 10.30am and finishes around 3.30pm, while the mutton cookery and taste-testing session opens at 11am with coffee and refreshments.

Both events are free of charge, although numbers are limited. To book a place, telephone Nick White on 01748 831910 or e-mail info@ruralbusinessconsulting.co.uk

Further information is also available on the WKD website at www.ruralbusinessconsulting.co.uk

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