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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 02:40 GMT
Charles backs 'revival' of mutton
Brian Turner, Ashley Shaw (Ritz head waiter), Prince Charles
The Prince said it was a "tragedy" mutton had fallen out of favour
A revival of mutton could give a boost to under-pressure sheep farmers and help sustain traditional countryside life, Prince Charles has said.

The Prince of Wales was speaking at the Ritz hotel in London at a dinner to launch the Mutton Renaissance Club.

The alliance is dedicated to helping farmers, butchers, restaurateurs and suppliers benefit from renewed interest in the meat taken from older sheep.

The prince said links in the mutton supply chain needed to be strengthened.

"A renaissance of mutton won't change the world but it just might, might make the difference between [farmers'] survival and disappearance and that, ladies and gentlemen, is enough for me," Prince Charles said.

'Utterly unique'

Charles and guests including celebrity chef Brian Turner and National Farmers Union president Tim Bennett dined on specially created mutton dishes at the event.

The prince said he had "fond childhood memories" of the meat and it was a "tragedy" that it had fallen out of favour over the years.

But he said consumers were now developing a taste for it again.

The lives of the farmers are tough and getting tougher by the day
Prince Charles

The new club was formed by the Mutton Renaissance Campaign, set up in 2004 by the National Sheep Association and the Academy of Culinary Arts to promote the meat.

Chefs including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Gary Rhodes have given their backing to the campaign.

And about 200 family farms, restaurants, butchers and abattoirs across the UK are now selling or serving mutton.

"The lives of the farmers are tough and getting tougher by the day - that's the problem," Prince Charles said.

"They have families whose children go to the village school, if it's still there and hasn't been shut. They use the village shop if it hasn't been shut and the post office if it hasn't been shut.

"These are the people who make our countryside utterly unique and these are the people for whom I will do everything in my power to help and that is why we are here tonight."

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