Eamonn Matthews

The Meadow Farm, Glens of Antrim, Co Antrim

FIVE years ago Eamonn Matthews took the decision to make radical changes to the sheep flock he runs on the family farm in the Glens of Antrim in Northern Ireland.

He switched from a high input flock aimed at getting lambs off the farm quickly to a more extensive system better suited to the farm and its environment.
This involved reducing the flock of Mules and replacing them with Lanark and Perth Blackface ewes, which could utilise the mountain and hill grazing.

The next step was to explore whether there was a market for local produced hill reared lamb in hotels and restaurants in the area.

Eamonn found an abattoir willing to take his lambs and a butcher who was keen to work with him on the processing side. He then analysed various cuts and cooked them for family and friends getting feedback on flavour, texture, and aesthetics before approaching local chefs and looking into the production of convenience meals.

Eamonn formed the group, Glens of Antrim Lamb with a food tour organiser, chef, butcher and other farmers to sell lamb locally.

“I have worked with local chefs to identify the ideal carcase size for them,” he explains. “They also want a lamb with a more distinct flavour than those finished at 16 weeks. This has meant I now lamb later in the season and allow lambs to age naturally.

“I have also developed a range of convenience meals to sell at farmers’ markets which is a good way of getting brand recognition and reintroducing people back to lamb. It also allows me to maximise the carcase ensuring no waste and enter the growing convenience marketplace.

“From producing a commodity product and taking the market price, I can now ensure that I am achieving a good price for our products whilst becoming more sustainable and environmentally focused.”