Local vs. Global | Debating British vs New Zealand Lamb

Local vs. Global | Debating British vs New Zealand Lamb

Local vs. Global | Debating British vs New Zealand Lamb

Apart from when it's the Rugby World Cup, the Brits and the Kiwis tend to rub along quite nicely, with people from both countries choosing to settle in the other and make it their home.

But, another voyager between these two nations is the humble sheep. That is, the lamb meat that boosts our supermarket shelves and gets roasted up for special occasions. Lamb from down under has been at the forefront of our meat selection, with British lamb often struggling to get a look in. 

And this, well, this has sparked more dinner table debates that we care to count. 

So, in this blog post, we'll take you on a journey through the ever-changing weather of the British countryside, across the relaxed, sun-kissed pastures of New Zealand, and into the heart of a debate that's as heated as a grill on a summer's day. 

This isn't just about deliciousness. It's about the people, the traditions, and the choices that we actively make as consumers. 

British lamb vs New Zealand lamb - who wins the crown?


British or Kiwi Lamb: Which Side Are You On?

The debate between British and New Zealand lamb has been a hot topic in recent years.

Although it's perfectly acceptable to appreciate both British and Kiwi lamb for what they bring to the table, there are many factors that consumers should take into consideration when deciding what to pick up for dinner.

As it stands, the situation in the UK sees imported lamb from New Zealand being more readily available than British lamb. This is partly due to trade agreements and negotiations with international markets, including NZ. Cheaper imports from New Zealand have flooded the market, making it harder for our British sheep farmers to compete. 


Does Buying Local Lamb Really Make a Difference?

Buying British lamb is a way to align your values with your plate.

In today's increasingly globalised world, we are so much more connected to other countries than we ever were before. Convenience and cheaper options have become the forefront, and this can have detrimental effects on our local farmers. 

When you choose British lamb, you are helping our farming communities in the following ways:

  • Supporting Livelihoods: Farmers need to make a living and support their families, as well as contribute to the local economies. Choosing farm-fresh food means that you are helping them do this
  • Incentivises Local Farmers: If the consumer demands goes up, then farmers are more likely, and able to, increase their practices and put more money towards sustainable initiatives
  • Reduces Carbon Footprint: The less travel time the meat takes, the better. Although transportation isn't necessarily the biggest contributor, it does play a significant part and should be decreased wherever possible
  • Connecting With Your Community: Farms are part of rural communities and they have been for many, many generations. They are often at the heart and soul of village life, and contribute to that sense of culture and heritage.


Did You Know? British Lamb Fun Facts!

British Lamb Fun Facts

Did you know that British lamb has a few charming secrets up its fleece?

As we explore the world of sheep, let's take a look at some fun facts:

  1.  The 'Counting Sheep' Tradition: This is a tradition rooted in British farming. To ensure that the entire flock was safe and sound, shepherds would count their sheep. This then led to the introduction of it as a soothing past-time to get to sleep!
  2. Weather-Infused Flavour: The weather British sheep endures contributes to the flavour. The unpredictable climate affects the grass and herbs that the sheep graze on, which then, in turn, affects the flavour of the lamb meat
  3. The Tale of the 'Lamb of God': The lamb symbolises innocence and purity in British folklore, with it often referred to as the "Lamb of God." This symbolism has deep historical and cultural roots, making lamb not only a tasty dish, but also a significant symbol in British heritage
  4. A Royal Affair: British lamb has graced the tables of royalty for centuries. Queen Victoria reportedly enjoyed a good roast lamb, and it's a favourite for other monarchs too. 

You could probably say that British lamb isn't just about sustenance; it's about connecting with a culinary heritage that spans generations.


Is New Zealand Lamb Worth the Long Journey?

Journey from Britain to New Zealand

Anyone who has ever endured the 24-hour long journey between the two countries will know that there is quite some distance between the UK and NZ. 

The beauty of British lamb is that it is easily accessible to everyone throughout the country. Whether you live in London or Leeds, you won't have to go far to find the perfect chop or leg to roast up on a Sunday.

Yet, despite our local proximity to such delicious meat, there is still this draw of lamb from overseas. 

It seems like the reasons why are linked to the following:

  • Sustainability: New Zealand farmers focus on grass-fed lamb, which requires fewer resources compared to grain-fed livestock. This can help to reduce carbon emissions associated with production
  • Consumer Demand: Just like Wales, the Kiwi country has a unique connection with sheep. The lamb is known for its high quality, and it is a popular choice for those across the world 
  • Traceability: NZ often has robust traceability systems in place, ensuring consumers have information about the origin of their lamb. This transparency is essential, particularly when the meat is coming from so far away
  • Wide Open Spaces: New Zealand's spacious pastures allow for extensive grazing and low-density farming, contributing to sustainable land use and minimal habitat disruption. 

Whilst these reasons might seem compelling at first glance, it's important to note that this is nothing which British farmers aren't doing themselves!


Why Should We Root for the Home Team?

In today's globalised world, it is important to consider the impact of our choices on local communities and industries. It's not just about the flavour on your plate, but also the impact of your choices.

By choosing British lamb, you're not just enjoying a tasty meal; you're supporting local communities, sustainable practices, and a way of life that has shaped the British countryside for centuries.

When it comes to the debate between British and New Zealand lamb, there are compelling reasons to support our local sheep farmers:

  • Challenges faced by British farmers: British farmers often face numerous challenges, including low prices and harsh weather conditions. Supporting them by purchasing British lamb can help alleviate some of these difficulties and contribute to the sustainability of the agricultural sector
  • Strengthening the local economy: Buying local lamb supports the local economy by keeping money circulating within the community. It creates job opportunities and helps sustain small businesses crucial to rural areas
  • Community support: By supporting British sheep farmers and buying locally produced lamb, we show our support for the communities that rely on these farmers' livelihoods. This helps to maintain the fabric of rural life and the unique heritage associated with British agriculture.


What Does Our Choice Mean for British Farmers?

British Farmer with Sheep

As consumers, our choice to buy either local or imported lamb can have a significant impact on British farmers.

When consumers opt for imported lamb, it can result in a decline in demand for British lamb, affecting domestic markets and British sheep farmers. This in turn can have a negative impact on the agricultural industry and the livelihoods of British farmers.

To protect British farmers, trade measures and safeguards have been put in place. These measures are designed to ensure fair competition and maintain animal welfare standards. They also aim to mitigate the carbon footprint associated with long food miles, and the potential for cheaper imports to flood the market.

These measures are important to protect our farming industry, but it's also essential that we do our bit to help. For anyone seeking locally sourced and sustainable foods, buying British is a no-brainer. For anyone simply looking for delicious meat to cook for dinner, again buying British is a no-brainer. 

By supporting our local farmers, we create opportunities for them to continue to do the fantastic work that we rely upon on them to do. 


How Many Sheep Does New Zealand REALLY Have?

Throughout this debate, there's been one thing on our minds - does New Zealand really have more sheep than people?

Well, in June 2022, the New Zealand sheep population stood at 25.3 million, which is a decrease of 2% from the year before. It joins an unsettling long-term decline of the national flock. 

This then also affects the sheep to people ratio. It has now dropped below 5:1 for the first time since records began in the 1850s. There once was 5 sheep to 1 New Zealander, now that's sadly no longer quite true. 

Although it may be a long-running joke and a bit of fun, when you look at the numbers, it does make for an interesting take on the future of lamb in general. 

However, on the bright side for the Kiwis, they are still ahead of the Aussies in the sheep-to-person battle. 



Whether you're buying one lamb chop for a quick dinner, or roasting a whole leg for a family feast, the decision you make to buy local or global enters you into a worldwide discussion about food and sustainability.

Although perhaps we can't settle the debate in its entirety, it's clear that Britain has a wonderful resource and we should be making full use of it. British lamb supports our local farmers, helps to preserve our economies, and reinforces the sense of tradition and community of the country. 

When it comes to making sustainable choices, we don't have to look much further than our own backyards and buying British.

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