Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Grazing Lambs Give Life to Special Sites; Buyers Sought for Their Meat

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Grazing Lambs Give Life to Special Sites; Buyers Sought for Their Meat

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Wilkinson

THEY'RE the North's natural lawn mowers and their meat is on the market to benefit the environment. Cash raised from the sale of meat from lambs who've grazed on wildlife sites is set to be ploughed into the North East's picturesque countryside.

It's part of a scheme set-up three years ago to provide animals for conservation grazing on nature reserves, sites of special scientific interest and surviving semi-natural grasslands.

The grazing keeps down weeds and scrub and creates habitats for flowering plants, insects, birds and other wildlife.

And tonight, people in the North East will be urged to form buying groups to take meat from the region's Flexigraze scheme. It's a separate non-profit making company run by Stephen Comber, who is based at Northumberland Wildlife Trust's headquarters.

As part of the initiative, Highland cattle and Exmoor ponies are loaned by their owners, but in the autumn Stephen also buys lambs from Northumberland and County Durham upland farmers.

The lambs graze on around 20 conservation sites and are slaughtered as shearlings at around 18-months-old.

"We are not competing with farmers' markets or farmers who sell their own lamb," said Stephen, who was attending to grazing stock yesterday on a nature reserve at Druridge Bay in Northumberland.

"We are looking more towards buyers from urban areas who normally use a supermarket.

"Instead, they could buy their lamb from us and the money will go back into helping their local environment and nature reserves.

"These semi-natural grasslands are now quite rare and are mostly uneconomic to graze commercially." The scheme will be launched at 9pm in the Star and Shadow cinema at Stepney Bank in the Lower Ouseburn Valley. At 7.30pm the cinema will screen Food Inc, in which film maker Robert Kenner investigates the food industry.

Stephen said: "Our goal is to ensure a fair deal for everyone, the farmer, lambs and the land on which they graze.

"Most importantly, the consumer gets a locally-produced, premium product at a very competitive price."

Priced at pounds 6. …

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