Sainsbury's launches national lamb group

Sainsbury's is seeking to unite farmers, processors and retailers to form the first ever Lamb National Steering Group.

Launching the initiative at the Royal Welsh Show, the retailer, along with processor Randall Parker, briefed farmers on improving communication and supply within the industry. The move follows the success of the Beef National Steering Group, launched in January 2006.

Sainsbury's said it plans to work more directly with UK lamb farmers and support British far-ming. It also plans to launch a similar scheme in the pork sector.

The Lamb National Steering Group plans to have four meetings in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to discuss regional issues. Following these, a national committee will be set up.

Sainsbury's lamb buyer Stuart Wright said: "The group will bring Sainsbury's closer to British lamb farmers than ever before. Direct communication will strengthen existing relationships and ensure the future of British lamb."

Justin James, category manager for meat at Sainsbury's, said the groups were being formed because of the success of the beef groups. "We have used those meetings to understand matters from an agricultural point of view and so that producers understand how Sainsbury's works," he said.

Two new Welsh lamb varieties are being launched by Sainsbury's in its Taste the Difference range, which will appear on 13 September. The supermarket is also promoting a new range of Welsh Hill lamb, which it says is "hand-butchered" and "matured".