Kerry sheep group target hotels in local lamb push

Here is an insight into the Ring of Kerry Lamb. The New group has boosted the profile ofthe product around Kerry and the greater area.

Tuesday July 07 2009 (Irish Independent)

Kerry sheep farmers are tackling falling margins head on, with a new producer group aiming to open up a range of outlets for local lamb.

The Ring of Kerry Lamb Marketing Group will be launched at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, today.

The producer group, which is supported by the South Kerry Development Partnership, will sell more than 2,500 lambs for around 40 producers, and has targeted several potential outlets for their stock.

One of the more high-profile markets will be the hotel sector. Twenty six top chefs from restaurants around the county will attended today’s launch, where they will taste top-quality, locally produced lamb.

In addition, they will be able to examine samples of vacuum-packed lamb from the producer group.

Michael Gottstein, a local lamb producer and Teagasc sheep specialist, said the initial reaction of the chefs to the concept had been very positive.

He said the idea that restaurants would be able to sell local produce was of obvious benefit. However, he insisted that the county of origin label would not be the primary selling point for Ring of Kerry lamb.

He said the emphasis would be on delivering an excellent product on a consistent basis.

“This is all about guaranteeing quality and ensuring that customers do not have a bad taste experience If a wrong type of lamb is sent to the factory then it won’t be killed,” he said.

However, the Teagasc man said that training would be provided to group members to help them choose the correct stock for slaughter and for sale.

All lambs will have to be castrated and tailed. In addition, lambs will not be allowed to be killed directly from the shed.

The producer group has entered into an agreement with a local butcher, who has been trained in innovative ways of presenting lamb. Another farmer has bought a refrigerated van to deliver the produce to the group’s customers.

The hotel market is not the only initiative being targeted by the Kerry farmers. They also plan to sell frozen lamb directly to consumers — what the group has termed the ‘deep freeze market’.

In addition to special store lamb and replacement female sales, the producers plan to organise light lamb sales, which will be aimed at building a live export trade.

The overall goal is to lift farmer profit to at least €20/ewe.

“This is not a get rich quick scheme. What we are looking for is a fair price for our produce,” Mr Gottstein said.

The producer group hopes to grow its membership and also to increase the number of lambs they market.

The producer group is headed up by former Kerry footballer and sheep farmer, Timmy Fleming.

Padraig Moran, the award-winning sheep producer and shearer from Waterville, is another of the better-known members of the group.

Anyone interested in joining can contact Timmy Fleming on 086 163 4681

– Declan O’Brien

We’re proud to serve Kerry lamb at No. 35 and will continue to lead the way for all Kenmare restaurants to champion all local food producers.