US lamb consumers get a taste for 'new meat'

US lamb consumers get a taste for 'new meat'


Sheepmeat
FIGURE 1: Rabobank's Angus Gidley-Baird said the price spread for Australian lamb prices compared to the import price has been above the 5 year average for the last 18 months. Source: Rabobank

FIGURE 1: Rabobank's Angus Gidley-Baird said the price spread for Australian lamb prices compared to the import price has been above the 5 year average for the last 18 months. Source: Rabobank

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Strong demand for Australian lamb from countries like the United States looks set to stay.

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While much of the hype around the surging lamb market has centred on the unprecedented demand from China, market watchers say we shouldn't overlook steady but sustained interest from the United States.

Domestic lamb production has been slowly declining in the US in recent years - a trend that is forecast to continue throughout 2019 and beyond.

The drop in local lamb supply comes as consumption rates are rising. More Americans than ever are choosing to eat lamb and Australian producers have been filling the gap.

Meat & Livestock Australia's business development manager for North America, Catherine Golding, said Australian lamb exports to the US increased 40 per cent between 2014 and 2018 when they hit 56,830 tonnes.

Back in 2004 we exported just 32,000t of lamb to the US.

Australia now accounts for 74pc of all lamb imports into the US and makes up 45pc of the total US lamb market.

Ms Golding said the trend was in line with rising lamb consumption figures in the US over the past five years.

She said that growth had largely been driven by a growing familiarity with lamb and consumers' willingness to try the product.

"That's particularly among their most culturally diverse generation of Millennials along with increased incidence on US menus," Ms Golding said.

Rabobank senior protein analyst Angus Gidley-Baird agrees that changing demographics have produced a "generational shift" in the US lamb market.

"There is a younger generation coming through that are making the purchasing decisions and they see lamb as a new meat - something a bit unique," he said.

Mr Gidley-Baird said many US consumers in the post Second World War generation had associated lamb with mutton and, for several decades, the reputation of the product had suffered.

"Now many of the younger generation are thinking about lamb not just as a main meal but more as an entree and are willing to try new ways of cooking it, " he said.

Mr Gidley-Baird said the "good work being done by MLA" had also built consumer resilience to higher lamb prices.

"When you plot US import prices of Australian lamb and Australian lamb (OTH) prices on a graph you'll find the price spread is at one of the healthiest levels we have seen," he said. (See Figure 1)

"We can see that the price spread for AU lamb prices compared to the import price has been above the 5 year average for the last 18 months and therefore I would argue that prices for the last year have been sustainable.

"It has only been the rapid jump in Australian prices in the month of June that has seen the price spread decline.

"This has also happened at a time when the US import price has declined - we are now in the lower period for lamb consumption in the US - and as such there may be some pressures on margins in the supply chain.

"Yes, lamb prices are high and no consumer likes prices to be high but US consumers have been able to accommodate those prices."

Ms Golding said research showed US consumers who were purchasing lamb at the retail level generally came from an affluent background and were "foodie types" interested in cooking.

She said they were often purchasing lamb for a special occasion.

"So price is not the key motivating factor for buying lamb in the US," she said.

"We also know that 6 in 10 lamb buyers are generally willing to pay more for better quality meat, which fits the profile of Australian lamb."

Ms Golding said MLA runs two key consumer campaigns during the year - Simply Spring from March to April and Own Your Party from November to January.

"These work to achieve our goals of getting Australian Lamb on US plates; having Aussie Lamb as the preferred lamb option and making "Aussie" synonymous with high quality lamb that elevates the everyday," she said.

"These campaigns are an integrated approach via PR, influencers, social media, events (restaurant pop-ups/blogger parties), in-store (retail) promotion and national advertising."

The story US lamb consumers get a taste for 'new meat' first appeared on Farm Online.

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