Lamb study suggests visibility, not origin, would raise all lamb


Feedstuffs Staff Editor

For years, analysts have said that if American lamb producers welcomed imported lamb rather than run to Washington, D.C., for protection, there would be more visibility and, therefore, more consumption of and more demand for lamb, including American lamb. As in how a rising tide raises all ships, analysts insisted that this would be positive for the U.S. industry, as well as the principal shippers, Australia and New Zealand.

Now comes proof.

In a study commissioned by meat processor trade groups in North America, Australia and New Zealand and released last week, American consumers said they would buy lamb more often if it were available more often in meat cases and on menus and if fighting over country of origin -- which the study learned creates negative suspicion -- ended.

The study found promotions pushing lamb as an alternative to everyday casual dining, as an ethnic cuisine and for barbecuing and grilling would increase consumption, as well as promotions showing that lamb is easy and quick to prepare. The study found that consumer-focused lamb products, such as prepared and ready-to-heat-and-serve products, would appeal to 20-40% of consumers, especially consumers employed full-time, consumers with children and Generation Xers.

The study reported that while lamb can compete with beef, pork, poultry and other entrees -- 50% of regular lamb consumers would consider lamb in place of poultry or seafood and 66% would consider lamb in place of beef, veal or pork -- 25% of regular lamb consumers and 33% of occasional and potential lamb consumers said they are never confident lamb will be available in the store.

Interestingly, 50% of all shoppers acknowledged that they do not decide ahead of their grocery shopping the kind of meat or cuts they will buy, according to the study, which suggested that this means shoppers can be persuaded to buy lamb even in the store while shopping.

The study also reported that while some consumers respond well to ads comparing brands and origin of lamb, "many more say such (harping about foreign brands and origin) are likely to deter them from buying any lamb at all."

"The findings underscore a strong potential to increase U.S. lamb consumption if the domestic industry and importers target the center of the plate rather than each other," concluded Mark Newman at Market Solutions in Chevy Chase, Md., which conducted the study.

The work was funded by the National Meat Assn. in the U.S., North American Meat Processors Assn., Meat & Livestock Australia and Meat New Zealand and other sources.

Lamb consumption, at an estimated 0.8 lb. per person this year on a boneless equivalent basis (Feedstuffs, Nov. 5), has slid 20% in the last 10 years and is just 0.5% of the total meat and poultry that Americans consume each year.

Copyright 2001, The Miller Publishing Company, a company of Rural Press Ltd.