The laws of supply and demand dictate that if supply decreases, then demand should increase. But, if demand for lamb is decreasing as well as the supply of lamb, perhaps as producers we need to take a look at what we are doing to increase the consumption of lamb in the United States.
According to the Ag Marketing Resource Center, per capita lamb consumption in 1990 was 1.6 lbs. and this declined to 0.88 lbs. in 2011. If we compare this to per capita lamb consumption in Australia and New Zealand, we are looking at 26 lbs. and 25 lbs. respectively. The United States boasts a very large number of meat eating consumers, so what is preventing people from eating lamb? The American Lamb board states "more than one third of consumers have never had the opportunity to taste lamb"
The Ag MRC report also says "Domestically, lamb is not a strong competitor with other animal-sourced proteins such as beef, pork, and poultry. Given that most meat consumers never consume lamb, its substitutability with other red meat products is quite limited. However, lamb must compete for retail shelf space with other meat prcu
One other challenge that we as sheep producers face is that lamb is consumed mostly during the spring holidays rather than all year. This creates challenges for processors who try to keep a consistent and constant supply of fresh lamb available all year. What can you as a producer do to encourage people to enjoy American lamb? Here are a few thoughts that I have for producers to consider:
- Educational displays at state and local fairs: We all know that the general public is several generations removed from the farm and so have no concept of how their food is produced. Most states have sheep and wool growers' organizations that can develop a display for their state fair. Members can staff the display and answer questions that the public has about lamb and wool production. The most often asked question that I answered this year at the PA Farm Show (PA's state fair) was "where can I find lamb locally.? The easiest way to answer this question was to pull out a member directory for the PA Sheep and Wool Growers Association and find a producer located near them.
- Serve lamb when friends come to dinner: Yes, this is certainly a "no-brainer." But, what if you also give your friends the recipe? Or better yet, order some recipe brochures from the American Lamb Board and share these with friends and family. It seems that so many people not only don't take time to cook these days, but they also don't know how to cook. Supplying folks with a recipe certainly encourages them to try lamb at home.
- Get youth involved in promoting lamb: Our local fair's lamb show continues to grow each year and that means the number of lambs sold through the junior livestock sale increases also. Youth can help with promotion by giving out recipes and cooking instructions to potential buyers. The local sheep producers group might also get youth involved in serving samples. (Be sure to check out any local regulations pertaining to serving samples safely!)
- Post your farm information on foodie type websites: The local foods movement is very strong in certain areas across the country. Posting your farm information and availability of lamb for sale is a great way to increase the availability of lamb to consumers. Our local grocery stores don't always carry lamb, but consumers may be looking to buy lamb during those times of the year when lamb isn't available.
- Put a sign at the end of your driveway: This is about as easy as it gets if you live along a well-traveled road. Fresh, locally grown lamb for sale. Hang the sign out whenever you have lamb available. Consumers can even see how the lamb is raised if they have an interest. (I made the suggestion, so I best get to work making a sign for the end of my driveway!) This could even be a great way to pull together sheep producers in your area for a sign painting day…followed by a lamb dinner of course!
What other ideas do you have for promoting lamb? Summer is coming, so get grilling and invite some friends over to enjoy the great taste of lamb!
April 2013 article