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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 21:15 GMT
Prince attempts a mutton revival
Prince Charles eating
The prince recommends cooking mutton slowly for best results
Prince Charles has attacked fast-food culture as part of a bid to revive mutton as a dish among British diners.

He said he wants to help restore the fortunes of family farmers who form the "backbone" of the countryside.

Charles said slow cooking would bring a "whole new culinary treat" for those wanting best results from mutton.

The Prince was addressing chefs, farmers, and senior figures from the meat trade at the Mutton Renaissance Luncheon at the Ritz Hotel in London.

Speaking at the gathering, on Thursday, the prince said: "The main reason behind this whole enterprise is that I actually mind about the family farmer in this country.

"If we don't have them then we will have lost something very special in terms of how we look after, manage, and maintain our very precious landscape in this country."

'Ungrazed countryside'

He also gave guests his thoughts on agriculture, saying: "The challenges are especially severe for the hard-pressed family farmers who are the veritable backbone of what is left of our rural communities.

"We must ensure that things go on being grazed, otherwise we will end up with a rank and ungrazed countryside."

Charles is Patron of the Academy of Culinary Arts, which is backing the campaign along with the National Sheep Association.

He was joined at the event by top cooks such as Antony Worrall Thompson and Gary Rhodes, as well as leading restaurateur Terence Conran.

Guests were served a selection of mutton dishes, including two made from sheep reared on his own Highgrove Estate.

'Culinary treat'

Afterwards, in a speech, the prince said slow cooking was needed for the best results with mutton.

He said: "In a world where fast food seems to be the order of the day this may be a message that takes time to percolate beyond the restaurant.

"But I know from the large numbers of people who watch the cooking programmes on television that there are some who truly care about how they prepare and cook their food and so for them there is a whole new culinary treat in store."

The prince said his interest was sparked two years ago during a visit to farmers in Upper Teesdale, County Durham, who told him about the poor prices being paid for their ewes.

It made him recall his love of mutton when he was growing up.

Mutton revival

It also made him consider how a revival in the meat could boost the incomes of hill farmers.

Last year the prince hosted a dinner for chefs at Highgrove in which he had a "riveting conversation" about how the meat could be reintroduced, resulting in the launch of the campaign.

Mutton, traditionally from a sheep aged over two years, was commonly consumed in Britain for centuries before the Second World War.

Changes in farming practices and a decline in wool prices contributed to its demise and lamb quickly replaced the meat in as tastes changed.

Giving his backing to the campaign, celebrity chef Gary Rhodes said: "I'm getting into it in a big way and all my chefs think I have become obsessed with it.

"It is something I am really inspired by."

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