Farmers support current definition of lamb, in wake of 'risks' to industry

NSW Farmers say they support retaining the current Australian definition for lamb.

NSW Farmers Sheepmeat Committee chair, Ian Cargill, said there was not currently sufficient information available for sheep producers in NSW to commit to a change in the definition, with too many risks unknown. 

“Lamb production is an incredibly important contributor to the agriculture sector in NSW, and this is based on the excellent reputation of the product,” Mr Cargill said.

“We must protect the integrity and reputation of our product.

“We need more information on the potential risks to the reputation of the lamb brand, both domestically and internationally, before committing to a change in the definition.”

The lamb definition is currently meat derived from a female, castrated male, or entire male ovine animal that shows no evidence of eruption of permanent incisor teeth.

The proposed change of the lamb definition would allow for the eruption of permanent incisors, but without either incisor being in wear.

“The proposed definition aligns with New Zealand’s lamb category, but their lambs are usually sent to slaughter much earlier than ours and don’t often test that boundary,” Mr Cargill said.

Mr Cargill said that lamb producers in NSW are concerned that there isn’t enough information on how extending the definition would impact eating quality or consumer perceptions.

“In terms of research, this is an underdeveloped area,” he said.

“We need to be cautious when there’s a risk that the end product will not meet the demand of the end consumer.”

Mr Cargill said that NSW Farmers supports the industry exploring reforming options for the sheepmeat language.

“We support exploring the development of a cuts-based value system for lamb, underpinning by an eating quality grading system that is based on research and the Meat Standards Australia grading system,” he said.

“Objective carcase measurement for lamb will add more value to the industry than extending the lamb brand as proposed, although we acknowledge that chain-speed measurement is still a number of years from commercialisation.

“NSW Farmers believes that industry should focus on moving to cuts-based marketing to ensure the true value of the product is realised, and we look forward to working with the supply chain to further develop this technology,” Mr Cargill said.

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