Near perfect weather conditions and the attraction of one of North East Scotland’s best known hill farms combined to pull in bumper crowds when the NSA’s Scottish Region held Scotsheep at John and Fiona Gordon’s Wellheads, Huntly, Aberdeenshire.

Get specifications right to attract French consumer

THE French consumer shopped with his or her eyes and wallet. There were good opportunities for the sale of Scotch lamb on to the French market, but only if producers could meet the right specifications.

That was the key message from Calais-based importer, Laurent Macquet when he officially opened Scotsheep.

“As a company we have to procure a quality product, at a competitive price 12 months of the year. What quality means is nice conformation lambs with a nice pink colour, with little fat and we cannot stray from 16kg to 20kg carcase.

“The French customer is buying with his eyes facing the supermarket shelves so therefore we can’t supply him with a red, fatty piece of meat. He is also buying with his wallet so he is not buying heavy retail packs because that is too expensive. So the carcase weight penalises the sales if it is far too heavy.

“The challenge for the Scottish farmer is to produce this type of lamb without adding too much to the cost of production. They have to sell the sheep when they have reached the right weight, conformation and fat.

“As far as the meat is concerned the whole chain has to do the job. The meat will eat better when the animal is less stressful so lambs have to be handled with a lot of care before slaughter otherwise the quality decreases.

“The other challenge is to spread production over the months to keep the slaughtering plants busy all year round and for Scotland the peak season is October, November, December, which is the right time to promote Scottish lamb when it is at its best. That is when I think that Quality Meat Scotland have to devote the promotion of those lambs.

“We have to do everything possible to make people enjoy eating more lamb so everyone can get the benefit. The less lamb eaten, the less lamb that will be produced, so together we have to make sure these things do not happen,” he said.

Later Mr Macquet told a press briefing that his company handled about 15,000 tonnes of lamb – about 1 million lambs – per year and employed about 200 people. He and his brother, Xavier, who run the business, were the sixth generation of their family in the business.

Lamb was imported from a number of countries to give the continuity needed and about 20 per cent of the lamb handled was also exported, mostly to Belgium, Denmark and the UK, largely as kebabs and similar products using the poorer cuts.

He said carcase weight was important, as where packs of lamb meat were sold, say, with six chops, the pack from the lighter carcase sold at around £5 compared to about £7 for the ‘standard’ carcase and inevitably the consumer would tend to pick out the lower priced. In the case of lamb steaks, those cut from the larger carcases were too large and therefore too expensive for many consumers.

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