A NEW way of marketing Hebridean sheep meat has been launched in the Central Belt, in a bid to raise the profile of this high quality product with gourmet potential.

Until now, breeders had to market their own sheep, by arranging slaughter and butchery of individual animals as well as individual customers to sell to. However, a new project, organised by Marian Bruce, of the Kirklandbank flock, from Alyth, aims to market and promote Hebridean sheep meat and mutton on a commercial scale, reducing the work load for breeders and opening up the market to the wider population.

Last year she has organised a trial arrangement with her local butchery in Perth, Seriously Good Butchery (previously Highland Drovers), which was bought over by red deer farmer, Vicky Banks – who recently picked up the award of 'Best new butcher' at the Scottish Food Awards for her success with venison.

Keen to expand into other meat products, with quality and taste being the vital components of her business, her venison is slaughtered at her partner's farm which has also recently been approved to slaughter sheep. The availability of a slaughterhouse with on-site lairage, a tested marketing strategy and a customer base of meat lovers, has enabled the Hebridean Meat Co-operative to be formed.

Starting last year with a pilot project in order to test the logistics, range of deadweights, yields, profit margins, cutting strategy, marketing and customer response to the meat, Vicky took two sheep per month for six months, between July and December last year. At that time, five breeders took part, but this is being expanded this year with at least 34 breeders – or more, if breeders come forward – are set to take part in the project and can 'handle as many sheep as we can get', according to the organisers.

If you want to take part, contact Vicky at 'Seriously Good Butchery' be e-mailing vikki@seriouslygoodvenison.co.uk or jenny@seriouslygoodvenison.co.uk