Call for Retailers to Reposition Lamb

Spring lamb season but survey shows imports still dominate some shop shelves

NFU Scotland has called on major supermarkets to up their support for Scotch lamb in the coming months and use this season's starting price levels to reposition lamb in the consumer's shopping basket.

On the eve of Scotland's major sheep event, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller played ‘secret shopper’ and visited six major superstores to gauge the current levels of support for Scottish, British and imported lamb.

Ahead of Scotsheep 2012, being hosted by Morrisons supermarket at Dumfries House, Cumnock tomorrow (Wednesday, 6 June), he was encouraged to find that the Morrisons store showed total commitment to British lamb at this early stage in the season.  The Sainsburys store also showed an encouraging amount of Scotch lamb on its shelves.

In other retailers visited, Scotch lamb was available on the butchery counters but no Scotch lamb was clearly identified in the meat aisles and while British lamb was for sale, imported lamb from New Zealand and Australia still made up the bulk of lamb packs on the shelves.

Ahead of Scotsheep 2012, the Union has contacted all major retailers.  It has asked them to outline their view of the market; the potential to quickly move to greater volumes of home produced product and whether any promotional activity for lamb is planned in the months ahead.  Through its membership of Quality Meat Scotland's Lamb Marketing Strategy Group, NFUS also wants to discuss whether this year's more challenging lamb market needs a different approach to promoting and marketing Scotch lamb.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller, who visited Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Marks and Spencer stores, said:

"This year's lamb market has opened up with a substantial readjustment in prices and that has left many producers feeling jittery about prospects for the season ahead.  With the lamb markets re-balancing from the highs of recent years and Euro uncertainty affecting export opportunities, a higher level of commitment from supermarkets to home-produced product early in the season has the potential to generate the confidence and stability needed on farm.

"With a co-ordinated approach from farm to processor to shop shelf to consumer, this lamb season - while unlikely to hit the highs of recent years - still has the potential to be good for all concerned but we must start working on that now.

"This week's examination of shop shelves, while far from extensive, shows that in many stores a lot more could be done to properly stock and promote Scottish or British lamb.  It is still early in the season, and it is clear that many retailers still have imported lamb contracts running but it remains a disappointment that only Sainsburys had Scotch lamb clearly identified on the shelves in the main aisles. 

“But given that ample fresh, spring lamb is becoming increasingly available at market prices significantly more competitive than in recent years, we would be looking for retailers to commit to home produced product as soon as possible. When that lamb starts to come forward in volumes, we need to see Scotch or British lamb clearly identified and differentiated on supermarket shelves.  The level of mixing of imported and home produced products on some supermarket shelves could easily confuse shoppers when there is a genuine level of interest in the provenance and country of origin of lamb.

"Looking at shelves, I also think there is the opportunity to reposition lamb in the meat category and make it more attractive through a variety of cuts and boned-out products supported by point of sale material and recipes.   For this to work we need to ensure that as farmers, we continue to provide lambs that meet the right specification, particularly on the amount of fat cover our lambs have when they come to market. That would allow butchers and supermarkets to present cuts of lean, tasty lamb that better meet the demands of the modern consumer.

"We must make sure all parts of the chain secure some benefit from the current rebalancing of lamb prices. We have asked major supermarkets how they plan to get behind Scottish and UK product this season and whether the lower prices being paid for lamb will work their way through to the shop shelf.

“In Scotland, our promotional activity around Scotch Lamb is traditionally focussed on our peak autumn trade.  With changes to the price base at home and question marks over the export trade, it could be worth the QMS Lamb Marketing Strategy Group considering whether we may want to do something a bit different to promote and market Scotch lamb this coming season.” 


In the last 24 hours, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller has visited a number of supermarket stores in Edinburgh and the Borders to look at the availability and display of lamb.  The following is a summary of his findings:

  • Sainsburys, Cameron Toll – 190 packs of lamb on the shop shelves, 43 identified as Scotch; 92 as British and the rest were from New Zealand.
  • Marks and Spencer, The Gyle - On the shop shelf, 19 packs of lamb - 14 from New Zealand and five British, branded as Cotswold.
  • Tesco, Dalkeith - 54 packs of lamb on shop shelves - 32 from New Zealand and 22 British.  Some packs of lamb mince were a mix of British and New Zealand.  The packs of British and New Zealand were not differentiated by country of origin on the shelf.
  • Tesco, Galashiels - 64 packs of lamb - 54 from New Zealand and 10 from Britain.  There were also 14 packs of New Zealand lamb on special offer.  Scotch lamb was available on the specialist butchery counter.
  • Morrisons, The Gyle – 54 packs of lamb, all identified as British.  British lamb was also available on the butchery counter.
  • Asda, Galashiels – There were 57 packs of lamb available on the shelves – 27 Australian, 20 British and 10 New Zealand.  Packs were mixed on the shelves.  Scotch lamb was available at the butchery counter.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 55/12

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