The UK’s National Sheep Association (NSA) has received a grant from the Prince’s Countryside Fund to enhance the country’s sheep meat market.

The grant will be used by NSA, which represents the views and interests of UK sheep producers, to explore consumption opportunities for the country’s heritage sheep breeds linked to landscapes and specific products.

A new study will be conducted by the organisation that will focus on the potential demand and various ways to increase the availability of products from heritage breeds, especially for hogget and mutton.

The grant will be added to finances raised by 18 other organisations, which will enable the feasibility study to move forward.

"Our sheep industry would do well to look at opportunities to win back market share and add value."

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “This is a welcome step forward for our sheep sector at a time of considerable uncertainty.

“Whilst standard lamb products have rightly been the main focus of national industry promotion, and will continue to be so, there is no reason why the huge diversity of sheep meat available in the UK should not be celebrated and supported in the marketplace as it is with wine, beer, cheese and many other foodstuffs.”

According to the NSA, more than 60 breeds of UK native sheep have been developed since the first domestic animal arrived from the continent 6,000 years ago.

Stocker added: “With commercial and environmental pressures causing some farmers to move away from traditional sheep farming methods and breeds, alongside uncertainties surrounding Brexit, our sheep industry would do well to look at opportunities to win back market share and add value, even if we are initially talking about niche volumes.”

The NSA intends to work in close partnership with others on this area of work as it progresses.