The United States is already Australia's second largest export market for lamb but a champion young meat judge sees potential for more major growth in the future.
Claire Marriott was a member of the 2020 Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) team's tour of the US early this year and was awarded second highest individual score in the lamb section at the US National Western meat judging competition.
A 2019 University of New England (UNE) graduate who grew up on her family's beef and prime lamb farm at Benalla in north east Victoria, Ms Marriott is now working for AACo on Brunette Downs Station in the NT.
She said while most American consumers didn't love lamb like their Aussie counterparts, cashed-up millennials and growing ethnic populations in the US offered scope for a major lift in sales.
"As millennials become more adventurous with their eating choices and the US national sheep flock continues to decline I believe an opportunity may exist for Australia to supply the US with higher-quality volumes of lamb in the future," she said.
Any increase in appetite for lamb and mutton in the US would have to come from a rise in imports, which already provided 70 per cent of the market, because the US national sheep flock had dwindled to 5.23 million head.
Around 40 per cent of US consumers were unfamiliar with lamb, she said.
"For many who eat lamb, it is regarded as a seasonal food reserved for special occasions.
"In 2018, sheep meat consumption was less than 0.4kg per capita with this value predicted to remain steady in years to come.
"In previous years much of the consumption of lamb in the US has been driven by ethnic populations who consume lamb as a staple protein in their diet.
"In 2015 it was estimated that the Hispanic population of the US was 18pc of the nation's total, with this proportion expected to rise to 29pc by 2060."
Ms Marriott said many US consumers didn't like the taste of lamb but in the future it may be possible to segregate lamb into unique flavour categories, improving marketing capabilities and consumer satisfaction.
"Consumers are required to pay more for lamb, thus the flavour profile of the meat must be consistent or improved so consumers are repeatedly satisfied."
Ms Marriott said lamb had made the most progress in the fine dining sector of the US food service industry which may influence more casual and quick service restaurants to follow suit, increasing consumer adoption.
The annual ICMJ US tour is sponsored by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) as a means of inspiring and educating future meat industry leaders.
This year's team consisted of Kieran Smith and Claire Marriott (University of New England), Hamish Fuller and Priscilla Evans (University of Sydney), and Margo Sullivan (Marcus Oldham College).
The team competed at both the Southwestern Invitational (Lubbock, Texas) and the National Western Stock Show (Greeley, Colorado).
The team was successful again at the National Western, winning the lamb judging for the fifth year in a row and taking home reserve champion overall high team with second and third high individuals in Claire Marriott and Margo Sullivan.
The story Millennials, ethnic groups the key to lifting lamb sales to the US first appeared on Farm Online.