The National Sheep Association (NSA) is encouraging shoppers to “enjoy British lamb” this Easter, as it is produced “sustainably with the highest welfare standards”.

The trade association for UK sheep farmers said the traditional choice of many families across the UK for Easter is a roast leg of lamb.

This is the “perfect meal” to enjoy at this time of year, the NSA said, as new season lamb is starting to become available on butchers’ counters and supermarket shelves.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “The supermarket shelves will be full of promotions luring shoppers in to fill their shopping trollies with delicious produce to celebrate with friends and families over the bank holiday weekend, including lamb.

“We hope consumers choose to enjoy British lamb at this time.

“Our welfare standards are amongst the highest in the world and our production methods help to maintain the UK’s much loved farmed environment, shaping our meadows, hills and uplands.”

Lamb seasonality

The NSA said it is also working on improving shoppers’ awareness of the seasonality of the lamb.

It is often assumed all lamb available in shops at this time of the year is new season – i.e. ‘spring’ lamb – but that may always not be the case, the association said.

”Older/later season lamb, also known as ‘hogget’, is meat from sheep at approximately one year old and is often richer in flavour and equally as delicious,” Stocker said.

“In fact, many may find they prefer the fullness of flavour it can deliver. Local butchers should be able to tell you what age of meat you are purchasing and provide something for you to suit your tastes and requirements.”

In addition to the age of sheep having an effect on its taste and texture, the many different breeds found in the UK and the environments they are reared in can contribute to a variety in flavour of the meat.

This has recently been highlighted for traditional native breeds of sheep in the UK by the creation of the British Heritage Sheep scheme.

“A roast leg or shoulder of lamb, hogget or mutton is a perfect celebratory meal whether that is from the iconic Herdwick in Cumbria or a lowland cross bred commercial lamb,” Stocker said.

“All at NSA wish everyone a very Happy Easter.”