Sheep Producers Australia has recently asked the sheepmeat industry to consider whether the definition of lamb should be changed. The lamb definition is currently meat derived from a female, castrated male, or entire male ovine animal that shows no evidence of eruption of permanent incisor teeth.
The proposed change of the lamb definition will allow for the eruption of permanent incisors, but without either incisor being in wear. NSW Farmers does not support a change in the lamb definition on the basis of information currently available.
We consider that the extent of risk to the lamb brand is currently unquantified, and that there are unanswered questions about impacts on market access, consumer behaviour, on-farm production, and eating quality.
We have a natural interest in anything that affects such an important production sector in our state. NSW accounts for almost 40 per cent of the national sheep flock, and three of the nation’s four largest sheep-producing areas are in NSW. NSW slaughters 23.6 per cent of the nation’s lamb, second only to Victoria, but produces more lamb on farm.
NSW Farmers understands that a change in the definition would bring benefit to some producers in certain production systems; however, we do not believe that it would deliver significant or any price increases for the majority of lamb producers in NSW.
It’s been said that extending the period for lamb definition could provide an indicator of the maximum time producers have available before an animal is downgraded to a hogget.
We’d like to see greater focus on a cuts-based value system for lamb, including a sheep meat eating quality grading system that is based on sheep eating quality research and the Meat Standards Australia grading program. It’s important that value is delivered along the whole supply chain, but not at risk of losing our consumers.
- NSW Farmers Sheep Meats committee chair Ian Cargill.