Monday, 19 November 2012

Sainsbury Lamb Group Meeting

On the 7th November I travelled down to West Wales for one of our Sainsbury's Lamb Development Group meetings.  It was a good trip down, heading to a town called Llandeilo just in time for dinner and a catch up with everyone before the meeting the following day.  As always there was a lot to talk about.  My thanks to Dunbia for putting us up and feeding us very well, care of The Plough (a good spot to stay if you are heading that way!)  In the morning we travelled the short distance to the very smart premises of Dunbia at Llanybydder where we started our meeting.
We heard from Sainsbury's about the slight upturn (5%) in lamb sales which is great news, with a predicted increase of 10% forecast for next year.  Driven by promotions at the moment this is still great news for the sheep industry and turns round a decline that has been prevalent for the past 4 years (at least).
We also had an update from Fiona Lovett from the EBVC on the flock health initiative.  So far she has visited 15 key suppliers of lamb into Sainsbury's.  The aim of the study is to investigate increased animal welfare and business support and also how this can be rolled out the rest of the farmers that supply JS.  In total over 15,000 ewes have been represented on 15 farms so far, not an insignificant number of sheep.  We also had an update on the carbon footprint initiative.  Did you realise that Australian farmers pay a carbon tax on their agriculture, last year it cost them $3.7bn!  As an industry we need to engage more and more with energy saving and monitoring to avoid a similar tax in the UK. We also need to look more closely at renewable energy and energy saving technologies.
We also had a very interesting discussion about the eating quality of UK lamb and what effects it.  This is important to JS as these qualities are what the customer will return for (or not if its poor)  We talked about the sex of the lamb, it's age, what it is fed on, maturation of the carcass, the amount of fat (not surprisingly visually customers buy leaner lamb, but in the taste tests everyone prefers a carcass with more fat, it's where the flavour is!), how it is cooked, and the price of the cut.  It really was a very interesting meeting.  We also spoke about the ratio between Omega 6 and 3 (the healthy ones), lamb has a very healthy ratio of 1:1 whereas pizza has a not so sparkling ratio of 1:17!
After a very delicious lunch of, guess what, lamb, we headed into the factory where the lamb carcasses are processed.  There was a display of the different cuts and packaging available in the different ranges, Basics, Taste the Difference and all the various options of bone in or out and different marinades.  We also looked at the difference in the carcass waste from lambs with different fat grades.  For instance the picture above on the right shows a 4L carcass which has 4Kg of extra lamb fat that needs to be removed.  This is waste to the system and can double the amount of time the lamb takes to be processed in the factory.  As a producer selling lamb onto the processor, in our case Randall Parker Foods, it really brings home the need to get the carcass quality right.  Over finishing (i.e. keeping the animal too long) costs more money, reduces the carbon footprint, eats more feed and potentially costs them more to process with greater inefficiencies further down the supply chain.

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