3rd June 2015
Cull ewe prices have risen by 25% over the past twelve months with turnover in Bridgnorth up 40% and numbers up 12% compared to sharp downturn in new season lamb values of up to £20 per head on last year.
Mutton is now being cooked by celebrity chefs and is increased demand from the Afro-Caribbean market and the expanding Muslim population throughout the European Union and local cities.
The cull ewes trade is driven by independent abattoirs, shops and customers, with several major abattoirs within a 20 mile radius of Bridgnorth, all of which service this expanding market and each with their own ideas and range of customers both locally and in mainland Europe.
Within a 30 mile radius of Birmingham, there are now an estimated 400 shops retailing halal meat. Compare this with this with the only wholesaler, Ted Collins Meats, out of 34 meat stands in the 21 acres Birmingham City Meat Market.
The demise of the local high street in preference of "out of town" retail parks has brought about the end of the traditional high street butcher, a small percentage of which have moved with the times into niche markets such as high end and local butchers or farm shops, but many have fallen by the wayside.
Over the past 12 months, whole life assurance has been a major topic of discussion but it could be argued that price is the main factor in some customers desire to purchase red meat.
The cull ewe trade is very different with the end customer having been raised with very strong beliefs regarding the production process of fresh mutton.
Cheaper imported meat which is not processed in accordance with these beliefs would not be on the menu regardless of price. Compare this to some large national retailers' ability to retail cheap meat from unknown origins or in some cases unknown species and more remarkably that their customers are prepared to purchase this product.
Mutton has been as dear as lamb. We all take great care in marketing finished lamb and chasing the last penny. Cull ewes have now moved on from being a bi-product of lamb production to a very valuable income source. Bridgnorth's overall weekly average hit £100 per head in April/May with both cull ewes and rams realising top prices of over £160 per head.