Lifescape combines nature management and traditional lamb
Kempen heath sheep are used to manage the heath of the Kempen in Brabant. The meat of the lamb from the heath is now officially a threatened traditional food product. Lifescape finances two studies to see how Kempen heath sheep can restore biodiversity while giving the herdsman a decent living with the sale of local and traditional lamb.
In January the new strategy for the Kempen heath sheep was presented. The primary goal of this strategy is to use the old sheep breed for the nature management on the heath of the Kempen in Brabant so it will help to restore the biodiversity. ‘The strategy has two important parts‘, says Robertino Wibier, the policy officer of the province of Noord-Brabant who is involved in the Kempen heath sheep project. ‘Agricultural economists of the LEI will study the production chain of lamb.
How do you get the meat on the plates? And the consultants of Imagro will design a marketing and communication strategy for the sheep. How can you market the Kempen heath sheep? By using and strengthening the qualities and identities of the region it must be possible to stimulate the regional economy.‘ Lifescape finances those studies.
‘There will be lots to do this year‘, expects Loek Hilgers, chairman of the Vereniging Stamboek Het Kempisch Heideschaap (The Kempen Heath Sheep Pedigree Association). The Kempen heath sheep is also admitted to the Ark of Taste of Slow Food, the list of traditional, regional food products that are threatened with extinction. Slow Food is an international movement of consumers and producers that dedicates itself in preserving those products. To be eligible for the Ark of Taste the production of the Kempen heath lamb must satisfy certain quality standards for the management of the sheep and the processing of the meat. Hilgers also wants to gather a club of people in cooperation with Slow Food to support the start-up of a new production chain on traditional standards.
According to Hilgers the two studies Lifescape finances and the cooperation with Slow Food will ensure that a clear strategy will be developed this year on how to use the Kempen heath sheep to strengthen the biodiversity on the heath whilst giving the herdsman a decent living. ‘We want to rent the herds as grazing machines, but then it must be clear what that means for the nature organisations that hire us, for instance how the herds can be paid from the existing nature subsidies. The studies of the LEI and Imagro will be an initial impetus for a business plan which will also contain production strategies that meets the Slow Food quality standards.‘
Through Lifescape Hilgers was able to visit the South Downs Lamb Initiative with a club of herdsman and other people from the Kempen. That was inspiring, he says, but there are some cultural differences. ‘In the South Downs they have a well-oiled organisation for the marketing and they take care to keep the ties between producers and consumers as short as possible. But in England they eat much more lamb then in The Netherlands, and the English also like the meat fatter than the Dutch. We want a lamb with the slaughter weight of about twenty kilos with a lean and mean leg of lamb. Meanwhile we are in contact with three butchers and some restaurant owners who we want to involve in the product development.‘