Making the most of lamb

17/06/2009 - 00:00
Lamb is a wonderfully flavoursome, incredibly versatile meat and a popular choice both in the home and on pub and restaurant menus. But in the last nine years the lamb flock has declined by 25%.

At the same time producer costs have continued to rise and market prices are affected by the exchange rate which has encouraged increased export of lamb. All these factors combined have resulted in significant price increases and had an impact on sales. In fact lamb is around 20% more expensive than this time last year, which in the current climate with businesses and consumers alike affected by increasing cost pressures, has put lamb producers at a real disadvantage. Now more than ever, it's important to find ways to deliver excellent quality meals while containing costs. The impact of the price increases on the market can clearly be seen by TNS year on year comparison data. Total spend on lamb is up by 4% but volume is down by 5%. The average price per kilogram has increased by 10%, while penetration has dropped by 2% and the average weight of purchase by 4%. So to help retailers and caterers utilise more of the lamb carcase, EBLEX set about exploiting a range of alternative, cheaper cuts of lamb. These cuts were unveiled to around one hundred delegates from all sectors of industry during a series of presentations, demonstrations and workshops at the recent 'Make More of Lamb' Festival held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. Retail project manager for EBLEX, Mike Whittemore, explained: "There are a number of things we can do to help improve lamb's position in the market place. Unsurprisingly in the current recession we're seeing more demand for lamb mince (volume is up 13.3%) and stewing cuts (up 12.4%). But conversely lamb shoulder volume is down by 19.4%. "Lamb is arguably at its best during the barbecue season so we needed to find ways to maximise its potential at this crucial time. In fact there are many shoulder cuts that are perfect for cooking on the barbecue so we set out to add value and margin to this relatively low cost part of the carcase through the development of new butchery techniques and products. By maximising the potential for the entire carcase it makes lamb a far more cost-effective proposition." Supply chain project manager for EBLEX, Dick van Leeuwen and catering butcher Michael Perkins, went on to showcase the new cuts with a butchery demonstration entitled 'Cutting the Carcase Differently'. Trade marketing executive Laura Bishop then unveiled a whole host of marketing support material themed 'Simply Lamb, Simply Delicious' produced to help both independent and multiple retailers and foodservice operators boost lamb sales this summer. Feedback from the guests in attendance was positive with executive head chef, Chris Wheeler, saying: "The butchery demonstration was so inspiring. I'd love to be able to butcher like that myself, but unfortunately I just don't have the time. It was really interesting to see different cuts available from the shoulder and leg and I'll certainly be talking to my suppliers about those. I also found the carcase classification presentation particularly interesting, giving a clear overview of the different fat levels and why some lambs don't make the grade." The cuts that were unveiled at the Lamb Festival were: • Premium Shoulder – Carvery Roast • Rustic Lamb Roast • Lamb Victoria Roast • Lamb Rosettes • Rustic Lamb Chunkies • Rack – Shoulder Six Ribs • Premium French-Trimmed Cutlets • Short Saddle – Stuffed • Premium Carvery Leg of Lamb • Leg Steaks

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