More farmers raising lambs indoors for Easter
With easter coming up, Swedes want to eat a lot of lamb meat. But a farmer tells Radio Sweden that to get enough of this delicacy ready so early in the year means lambs born in winter and raised indoors.
Almost a third of all lamb meat eaten in Sweden, is eaten during the Easter period.
But at this time of year the snow still lies thickly on the ground across much of Sweden's countryside. Which means that to get lambs fat enough to be slaughtered, they are born early and raised indoors.
Farmer Tomas Olsson is the head of the industry association for lamb producers. He says to Radio Sweden that the Swedish lambs made into Easter meat have been kept indoors, raised in large boxes.
At his farm in Kungsör, central Sweden, Tomas Olsson is surrounded by newborn lambs. He says that lambs are usually born in the springtime and slaughtered in the autumn, giving them time to roam around fields, suckle from their mothers and eat grass all summer.
He says that the lambs that are made into meat for the Easter table are instead born in December and January. Since easter is such a major lamb-eating time, more farmers are now raising their lambs indoors, during the winter.
Tomas Olsson says there's always more demand for lamb than Swedish farmers can supply, and that there is a special shortage of the meat this Easter, due to an outbreak of a disease known as Schmallenberg virus.
He says that many have had lambs born deformed, or dead - some farmers have lost 40 percent of their newborns, while other producers have not been affected at all. He says that the virus is spread by a blood sucking insect, and that there are no figures on exactly how much of an impact it's had on the spring's lamb production, but he thinks that Swedish lamb may diminish by as much as 20 percent.
And Tomas Olsson says that, while his own farm has only had four lambs born dead so far, he's very worried about the coming years, since there may be a knock-on effect, meaning fewer lambs born in the future.
At major supermarket Ica they say there is, so far, no sign of a particular shortage. But the company head of perishables, Dan Jacobson, says that there is usually a lack of Swedish lamb for easter anyway, because such a big part of the country's entire lamb consumption is happening round easter.
Lamb is Sweden's favourite meat - and the one that Swedes want more and more of every year. Just since 2000 twice as much lamb is eaten in Sweden. But that does not mean that twice as many lambs are being born in Swedish farms; the number has hardly increased at all. So today only about a third of lamb eaten in Sweden is from this country.
Before 1994 well over two thirds of all lamb was Swedish. But with entry in to the European Union meat from abroad could be imported much more cheaply. Dan Jacobson, head of perishable food at Ica, says that at this time of year they have to buy in even more lamb, mostly from New Zealand and also Ireland.