A group of seven farming families have joined forces to create a business that aims to tackle the problem of falling returns for their smaller hill lambs.
Upper Teesdale Lamb, which is also looking to shorten the supply chain while providing better value, allows the producers to sell whole and half Swaledale lambs, ready for the freezer, directly to customers online.
The Swaledale breed, which is well-suited to the harsh climate of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is renowned for its ability to thrive on the heather-dominated moorland and flower-rich meadows of Upper Teesdale.
Swaledale sheep are also able to rear lambs where other breeds can not, thereby contributing to the maintenance of the unique assemblage of plants, the wide array of wading birds and the vast area of blanket bog in Teesdale, where a diet provided by varied vegetation – complemented by carefully selected supplementary feed – contributes to the distinctive flavour of the lamb.
The new business – a collective venture from Bail Hill, Stoney Hill, Cronkley, Watgarth, Herdship, Valance Lodge and Watersmeeting farms – will see those involved selecting lambs every two weeks between September and March for delivery to customers every other Friday.
All its products will be prepared in local abattoir, F. Simpson’s of Cockfield, a mere 20 miles from the farms, where a team of highly skilled butchers will take care of the processing.
The lambs are then vacuum-packed and placed in thermally insulated Luxury Shipper boxes, along with Hydropac ice sheets.
These are collected from the butcher and transported overnight by courier for delivery to customers’ doors on specified days.
Chairman of Upper Teesdale Lamb, Paul Johnson, of the Herdship hill farm at the top of Teesdale, said: “This is great opportunity to purchase Swaledale Hill lamb direct from the producers and comes at a time when many supermarkets are not even making British lamb available in their stores.
“We believe that we are offering great tasting lamb at a very competitive price.”
Upper Teesdale Lamb is also being used by Jon and Bev Dunn of Cafe 1618 in Middleton, Teesdale, where it is used to make the renowned Miner’s Pasty dish.
“The Swaledale was the only breed available in the heyday of the lead mining industry so has the perfect provenance for my product,” Mr Dunn said.
Upper Teesdale Lamb is available to order at http://upperteesdalelamb.co.uk , where a number of recipes are also provided.