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Edinburgh butcher to stock rare 'seaweed sheep’ this month

Mathiesons Butchers on Ratcliffe Terrace in Edinburgh will be selling the rare mutton from late April.

Published: April 15, 2021

One of the oldest butchers in the capital will be offering customers the chance to pre-order mutton, which comes from the rare North Ronaldsay sheep - the oldest breed in Northern Europe.

The ancient breed are known as 'seaweed' sheep, as they exist on a diet of seaweed, which gives their meat a unique flavour.

Back in 2019 the North Ronaldsay breed officially become the first Slow Food Presidium in Scotland. 

And in 2020 North Ronaldsay’s Sheep Dyke Warden, Siân Tarrant, started an adopt a sheep campaign to help support the 'forever flock'.

The sheep are a vital part of island’s economy, helping support the small population of about 60.

The mutton is a prized delicacy and is (normally) served in restaurants such as Edinburgh's l'escargot bleu.

Living wild on the shores of the northernmost island of the Scottish Orkney archipelago, they are the descendants of the North European short-tailed sheep and are a closed flock.

In 1832, a local Laird ordered the construction of a 13.5 miles long Dyke around the island to keep the sheep on the shore and off the land.

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The wall still exists but storms cause damage every year and the annual repairs require local support.

The breed has genetically adapted over the centuries to thrive on their foraged seaweed diet that imparts an exceptional and unique flavour.

Now those keen to try the mutton can do so by placing an order with Mathiesons.

Speaking of the sheep, Mathiesons owner Angus Kirk said: “At the heart of everything we do is Scottish agriculture, and we strive to support it in every way possible and will continue to do so for years to come.

"The seaweed sheep are truly wild, and their environment is extremely fragile, so being able to get our hands on and stock the meat is a real privilege.

" It’s a joy to bring such a rarity to our customers of South Side and beyond - allowing them to experience Scottish meat at its finest.'

Customers are being advised to pre-order the mutton, which is due in from 26 April, by emailing or phoning 0131 667 2143.

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Mathiesons of South Side Edinburgh have been serving locally sourced beef, lamb and pork since 1880, with the shop being commended by the Scottish Craft Butchers' Association.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related.

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