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MSA underpins new Dorper lamb brand

Dorper sheep breeders and processors gearing up for the launch of the Prime Dorper Lamb brand in the next few months are hoping to replicate the success of breed-based beef brands.

Underpinned by Meat Standards Australia (MSA), the Prime Dorper Lamb brand is seen as the next step for producers to increase awareness of the quality of their sheep meat and ensure a consistent supply to local processors.

Donna Emmerton, a board member of the Dorper Sheep Society of Australia (DSSA), says with the South African meat breed finding a foothold not only in the rangelands but across much of Australia, it was important to find a way to supply a consistent branded product to build a reputation similar to leading beef breeds.

Image: Mount Christenson

“Our producers are keen and motivated but it’s difficult because they are Australia-wide, so by using MSA as a ‘backbone’ it means all producers are on the same page, producing the same product consistently,” Ms Emmerton said.

“There’s also been such rapid growth in Dorpers in the past 20 years that we feel that consumers don’t always distinguish between our lamb and other breeds, and we think it’s important to make that distinction to create more demand and make Dorper the ‘lamb of choice’.

“The Dorper Sheep Society of Australia has visions of Dorper being the Angus of the sheep world.”

The DSSA has been quick to adopt MSA supply chain management protocols and spread the word amongst its members, holding regular information days with MSA representatives from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

MSA Operations Manager Sarah Strachan said the independent endorsement of the MSA program enables the customers of Dorper lamb to purchase the sheep meat with confidence.

“For consumers, MSA takes the guesswork out of buying lamb because it has successfully identified the critical points along the supply chain that impact on the eating quality of sheep meat,” Ms Strachan said.

“When producers implement best practice, low stress management and provide good nutrition, they are delivering the best possible product into the supply chain. The processors then ensure these animals are handled with minimal stress and continually monitor processing techniques that optimise meat quality.

For consumers, MSA takes the guesswork out of buying lamb
Sarah Strachan, Meat & Livestock Australia

“Each MSA eligible cut is then labelled with an appropriate cooking method, so the consumer has the best chance of having a successful eating experience that meets their expectations.”

The Dorper Sheep Society will draw on more than 600 members in six states to supply the Prime Dorper Lamb brand.

As a way of ‘speeding up’ adoption, the DSSA is offering a co-branding agreement to existing Dorper lamb suppliers who already have their own brands. From July, those who meet licensing agreements will be permitted to brand their product with their own logo and that of Prime Dorper Lamb.

Licensing agreements require producers to be members of the Dorper Sheep Society of Australia, purchase and use only rams from a registered DSSA stud, provide lambs that are at least 87 per cent Dorper (minimum third cross) and ensure only a premium quality product is supplied.

Processors will be required to only select lambs from MSA-registered and DSSA-licenced producers, that weigh between 18-26kg have a fat score between 2 and 3 and have met the MSA standards.

A simple but effective Prime Dorper Lamb logo has already been produced, and Ms Emmerton says it’s getting a good reception from use on caps, shirts and vests.

“It seems to be unifying members of the Society because any merchandise with the Prime Dorper Lamb logo on it is flying out the door,” she said.

“The logo is simple yet eye-catching, and it will be an option for butchers and food service outlets to use to identify the Prime Dorper Lamb products at point of sale.”

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