Market needed for Shetland light lamb
Published:  25 October, 2016

With prices for Shetland light lamb down to £5 a carcase, a market is desperately needed for the product. 

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland said this has dropped from £30-£40 a lamb to £5 a lamb, with most carcases weighing between 12 to 15 kilos and an animal previously receiving £3.50 to £4 per kilo, generally speaking.

While there is plenty of speculation as to why the demand has dropped, there have been no confirmations.

In response to this situation, chairman of the NFU’s livestock committee Charlie Adam has written to the major retailers with the aim of building a market for the lamb.

At a recent livestock meeting, the committee agreed to a two-point plan to help promote the meat: firstly, to continue the dialogue between retailers and processors highlighting the concerns and to work alongside them to build a market; and secondly, the issue will be discussed at the Shetland branch meeting, with the view of building on Shetland lamb marketing groups and deciding if collective direct selling would assist farmers.

“Clearly this is a serious situation with prices falling down to £5 a lamb,” said Adam. “This is not sustainable for the native Shetland flock. We are concerned about farmers’ cash flow in the short term, but also need to look ahead to ensure price crashes like this do not repeat themselves.

“We are working with our Shetland branch to look at both short-term solutions to find buyers and explore long-term options for co-operation to reduce market fluctuations.”

Adam told Meat Trades Journal that the next step would be to find a platform to showcase Shetland lamb’s unique selling point. “It’s all about finding a market,” he explained. “We are talking about a relatively small number of lambs – I would think under 10,000 at a guess – so it’s about finding a niche market and selling the lamb. As a product, it’s a very nice product to eat and because it’s scarce and produced in a very environmentally way, one feels that there might be an opening to market it to a speciality market within this country.

“With the general trend towards relatively small portions of very high-quality food, one would have thought that these carcases might particularly suit that.”

Due to the remoteness of Shetland, another obstacle facing producers is the transport cost. “There is a relatively new abattoir in Shetland that was just built five years ago and we certainly would suggest using that, especially as lamb is a popular enough product in Shetland. Local authorities and those buying procurements for schools and the like might be encouraged to use the abattoir and to consume that product rather than bringing in lamb and other meats from other parts of the country,” said Adam.

This would assist producers in saving money, as it can cost between £5 and £7 or more to transport a lamb to the UK mainland.