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US Lamb Should Differentiate From Other Red Meats

09 April 2015

US – Trends for more natural meat rearing processes could be a shot in the arm for America’s lamb sector, according to a North Dakota State University agricultural economist.

Growing consumer awareness of grass-fed, free range and lean meat allow an industry that has long been in the doldrums to mark itself out, researcher Richard Taylor has suggested.

He has noted Australia and New Zealand have distinguished their product through “aggressive advertising”.

“Lamb is in the category of a specialty or niche-market product, which should be marketed aggressively to selective markets,” he wrote in a recent extension newsletter.

“The three red meats, lamb, beef and pork, are similar; however, lamb has fewer calories, a lower fat content, and lower sodium and potassium levels. The calorie content is similar to chicken and tilapia, while the cholesterol level is slightly higher.”

He outlined the long term pattern of decline in US lamb production and consumption, citing the end of 40 years of price support in 1995 as a central factor. The National Wool Act, introduced in 1954, sustained sheep farmers into the 1970s until consumption more than halved in ten years.

Consumption fell from 700 million pounds in 1970 to 325 million pounds in 1980, explained Mr Taylor.

He said that wool subsidies, which were almost a quarter of sheep income during the 50s and 60s, were reintroduced but production slid further with imports from Australia and New Zealand filling shortfalls.

“Consumption has remained between 300 million and 385 million pounds for the last 30 years,” he added.

“The growing level of imports indicates that Australian and New Zealand producers are willing and able to supply lamb to the U.S. markets at a competitive price, which domestic producers are not willing or not able to do.

“Australian lamb producers have increased sheep numbers by 38 percent since 2003, while New Zealand producers have reduced production 23 percent since 2006. Between 1990 and 2002, U.S. lamb prices were higher than world lamb prices. However, in 2003, the price gap between the two markets narrowed.

“Currently, little different can be seen between world lamb prices and U.S. lamb prices. Australia has more than 80 million head of sheep, and New Zealand has more than 45 million head of sheep, compared with 6 million head in the U.S.

“The industry markets high-value cuts to the northeastern and western states, while most of the low-value cuts are rendered or made into pet food. A small number of whole-mutton carcasses are exported to Mexico.”

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms.

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