A major British supermarket chain is using New Zealand sheep in ground breaking research into genetics and food.
The Sustainable Lamb Project is being undertaken by the Agri-Food and BioSciences Institute in Belfast.
It is funded by retail giant Marks & Spencer to assess the impact of using Rissington Breedline sheep breeding systems and its improved Primera genetics.
Researchers hope to discover the impact of high quality genetics on meat-eating quality and consistency, animal welfare, carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, on-farm productivity and processing efficiency.
A dozen Primera rams from Rissington Breedline were shipped to the UK in September last year as part of the two year project.
Marks & Spencer Agricultural Manager, Steve McLean says UK lamb production continues to fall and there's a growing need to find a more sustainable production model to ensure continuity of UK supply for Marks & Spencer.
"Our goal is to produce lamb that's guaranteed tender, succulent and flavoursome everytime, produced within a sustainable supply chain and complies with our company's commitment to producing meat to independent environmental standards," McLean said.
"We believe Rissington Breedline's high quality genetics could help us to achieve that goal."
McLean says more and more consumers are demanding to know from where and how the lamb they are eating was grown.
"This trial will help ensure the journey of the lamb from pasture to plate is transparent and of the standard our consumers expect," he said.