U.S. lamb production has been on the decline over the past several decades and the American Lamb Board is trying to change that. Sheep producer Stan Potratz of Iowa, a member of the American Lamb Board, says the arrival of imported lamb from Australia and New Zealand is one of the issues, “Slightly over 50% of the lamb sold in the United States comes from those countries and not domestic lamb. Why have they been successful? That’s because our lamb costs too much per pound to produce compared to the imported lamb.”
The other big issue is the inconsistent quality of U.S.-produced lamb, “The key complaint that lamb consumers have about lamb that they buy is that each eating experience VARIES. Even if they buy it from the same store, same food service chain, the variability of eating experiences is dramatic.”
Potratz says the board is working on economic incentive tools for big producers. “The American Lamb Board has put money into electronic grading systems that are now on trial in Denver and we hope that most of the major packers will have them over the next four to five years with probably some subsidy from the American Lamb Board to encourage them to do this.”
He says the board believes the nation’s 30-to-40-thousand part-time sheep producers could step up quality through intensive education. A link to the American Lamb Board’s 2013 study on improving the industry is at Brownfield Ag News dot com. Potratz was a speaker at the Missouri Livestock Symposium in Kirksville last month.