North Ronaldsay mutton has launched an application for official protected name status – the latest quality Orkney food and drink product to begin the process.
The seaweed eating sheep of North Ronaldsay If successful, the mutton, from Orkney’s most remote island, will join Orkney Beef, Orkney Lamb and Orkney Island Cheddar as local products protected under the EU scheme. A similar application has been launched for North Ronaldsay wool.
Orkney Crab and Orkney Beremeal are also currently taking part in the application process.
North Ronaldsay mutton is one of Orkney’s most unique products. The island’s sheep are kept on the shoreline by a large, hand-built stone dyke and feed on seaweed and other bounty thrown up by the sea. The mutton is lean with a gamey flavour and is held in the same regard as Italian prosciutto ham, truffles and caviar.
Dr Kevin Woodbridge, Clerk to the North Ronaldsay Sheep Court, said: ‘It is the unique foreshore environment and the husbandry of the flock by North Ronaldsay islanders over generations that has created this breed. This cannot be replicated elsewhere and it is essential for the producers and consumers alike that the genuine product is guaranteed by the Protected Food Name status.’
The sheep live on the shoreline of North Ronaldsay There are three different marks available for products. They can be awarded Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) or Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).
Orkney Island Cheddar has PGI status – the same mark the North Ronaldsay Sheep Court is applying for on behalf of its mutton. Orkney Beef and Orkney Lamb are registered as PDOs, with Orkney Beremeal applying for the same status.
The EU Protected Food Name scheme highlights regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed. It’s seen as a guarantee of quality and originality and it’s a process Orcadian producers have been quick to get involved with.
The sheep dyke circles the island, keeping the flock on the shore ‘I think Orkney has always been up front and ahead of the game with things like this,’ said Edgar Balfour, Development Manager for Orkney Food and Drink. ‘Demand for artisan and authentic produce is now greater than ever, so the protected name mark really makes a difference. It’s a really positive marketing tool for us and our quality products.’
Find out more about the island of North Ronaldsay and the work being carried out to maintain the pure breed flock in the island and its sheep dyke.