A deal with Morrisons looks like good news for Dartmoor sheep farmers – but local butchers remain the best source of local meat on the whole.
Dartmoor Farmers Ltd, a marketing co-op working through Matt Cole of Yelverton on sheep matters, has made a breakthrough in the supermarkets sector by getting Morrisons to commit to direct buying and Dartmoor branding for some lamb in 10 south west stores, including Tavistock. Others are Liskeard, Kingsbridge, Totnes, Teignmouth, Bideford, Bude, Verwood (near Poole), Bath and Penzance.
Mr Cole and some colleagues in the business will round up about 250 suitable lambs a week and deliver them to an abattoir in Launceston. The supermarket will pay a little over the auction market price to cover some of the expenses and will market the meat as naturally fed and therefore, according to some science, a bit healthier and tastier than the products of more intensive farming.
So far, it will not mean a lot more local business because Morrisons previously bought most of the lamb anyway, through various auctions, for a South West line sourced and sold over a wider area. But it’s a significant opportunity for spreading the Dartmoor Farmers brand. About 60 farmers are members, some of them pictured below.
They are also working on raising the profile of Dartmoor beef, which sells through some coastal hotels and other outlets, but so far no supermarkets. The moor is not good for fattening beef and it is hard to supply the kinds of cuts and quantities supermarkets want.
However, local butchers like Bidders of Yelverton and Howells of Tavistock already have their own arrangements with local farms for lamb, beef and other meat.
Mr Cole said: “We certainly don’t want to cut across them. But Morrisons can help us widen the market.”