By Debbie James

A young Pembrokeshire sheep farmer is adding value to his grass-fed lambs by tapping into the street food market.

Luke Watts and his mother Molly run a pedigree flock of Llanwenog sheep on the family farm near Martletwy.

They exhibit the sheep at agricultural shows and it was while competing at these events that Luke noted an absence of lamb products on sale at catering outlets.

The 24-year-old farmer spotted an opportunity to add value to his own lambs so, with the help of a Welsh social enterprise charity which supports people seeking to gain qualifications, he achieved the skills and food certificates needed to launch a catering business.

Luke’s big break came when he secured a free pitch in the ‘street food’ section of the Wales YFC area at the 2019 Royal Welsh Show.

There he launched his ‘Made at Moithan’ lamb kofkas and, despite soaring temperatures curbing visitors’ appetites, he sold the equivalent of two and a half lambs of the product in a single day.

“The best part of the experience was seeing people eating the product and complimenting us on it,’’ says Luke.

“We owe a lot to Agored Cymru and the YFC, they gave us the kick-start we needed as we might have put the paperwork we needed to get started in a drawer and forgotten about it.’’

Adding value can make the difference between him receiving £4/kg deadweight by marketing lamb through the traditional processor route and £40-£50/kg, before his costs are deducted.

Luke’s parents came to farming late after having other careers. He acquired his first sheep when he was 12, choosing the Llanwenog because he wanted a breed that was both Welsh and pedigree; he started with eight and now has a nucleus of 80.

His entire flock numbers 300 as he also has other breeds including Suffolks, Mules and Blue Faced Leicesters but it is the Llanwenog, with its Welsh provenance and meat eating qualities, that will supply the meat for the kofkas.

The breed also performs well on grazed grass – all Luke’s lambs are finished on grass – and that is an important aspect his is marketing.

His initial aim is to process up to 50 lambs a year.

The kofkas are prepared in the farmhouse kitchen at Moithan Fields which has been licensed by the Food Standards Agency and has a five-star food hygiene rating.

It took 25kg of mince and many different combinations of spices and seasonings before the family settled on the core recipe.

Then there was the debate over what type of bread it should be served in – Luke opted for Greek-style pitta bread, with British-grown rocket, Greek yogurt and sweet chilli sauce.

For weekend events, lambs are slaughtered on Monday, at an abattoir in Maesteg as there is currently no abattoir in Pembrokeshire.

The carcass is returned to a butcher in Pembrokeshire where it is hung and then minced, the entire carcass including the best cuts.

“We slaughter lambs to order because we know roughly how many we need for an event,’’ says Luke.

One of the greatest challenges was setting a price point for the product.

“We have priced it at under £5 because there is always competition but it depends where we are, if we have to pay a lot of money for a pitch then that will have an influence on the price,’’ says Luke.

His biggest satisfaction comes from being involved in the lamb supply chain from beginning to end.

“When we send an animal to the abattoir we get the grade sheets with the figures and numbers but being involved in every single step of the process from birth to consumption is a very rare thing for a farmer to experience.’’