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Have your say on lamb definition

Australians love their lamb! But, what factors actually determine whether sheepmeat is classified as 'lamb'?

This is exactly the question the Sheepmeat Council of Australia (SCA) is seeking to answer.                                                       

Over eight weeks, the SCA, the peak body representing Australian lamb producers, is asking farmers and meat supply chain members to have their say.

At the nub of the issue is what sets a lamb apart from a sheep. This is particularly important for meat trade purposes.

The answer, says John Wallace, Esperance sheep producer and Chair of SCA’s marketing, market access and trade policy committee, will assist the industry to continue on its trajectory of success.

“Australia’s sheep meat and lamb industry has hit its strides during the past couple of decades more than doubling in size.

“However, a sticking point that has been a constant is a lamb definition that creates a price cliff.”

Essentially, when an animal loses its first milk tooth it is no longer considered a lamb and the price a farmer can get for their animal drops immediately, hence the nickname ‘price cliff’.

The problem is though, like when many of us loose our baby teeth, there is little indication provided to farmers when the lamb is about to lose its first tooth.

Currently, a sheep is classified as being mutton following any evidence of  ‘eruption’ of a permanent incisor (adult) teeth.

A proposed change is to allow sheep demonstrating the eruption of permanent incisors but without either incisor being in wear, to continue to be classified as a lamb.

“This signal would help on-farm decision making to sell lambs for many producers, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same for all producers, so we need to hear from everyone,” Mr Wallace said.

“This is the reason why we are undertaking a public consultation process.”

The SCA Board wants to hear the views of everyone, so it can make a final decision on behalf of all producers.” Mr Wallace said.

Industry’s got the potential to improve profitability... with ongoing investment into objective carcass measurement
John Wallace, Sheepmeat Council of Australia

The SCA says having the right language across all production systems, through to the trade and consumer environment, is crucial to ensuring producers were paid for the attributes that consumer valued most.

“Industry’s got the potential to improve profitability over the next couple of decades with ongoing investment into objective carcass measurement and securing greater access to premium global markets.”

Producers and other parties with an interest in the lamb definition can have their say until Wednesday 29 November.

The consultation discussion paper, background information and a link to the online survey are available on the SCA website www.sheepmeatcouncil.com.au/lamb-definition

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