Lamb or mutton a matter of wear
CHANGES to the definition of lamb in Australia are now open for public consultation.
Currently, lamb is defined as having “zero permanent incisor teeth”, while the new definition would allow producers to sell animals without any permanent incisors “in wear” as lamb.
The Sheepmeat Council of Australia is calling for feedback on proposed changes.
SCA marketing, market access and trade policy committee chairman John Wallace, of Western Australia, said Australia’s sheep meat and lamb industry had hit its stride and doubled in size in the past decade.
“But a sticking point that has been a constant is a lamb definition that creates a price cliff,” he said.
“The current definition means that as soon as eruption is evident, the animal becomes classed as mutton, and results in a lower price.
“The proposed change in definition provides a signal to producers, by allowing the eruption of permanent incisors, but without either incisor being in wear.”
Victorian producer and SCA director Mick Craig said the industry needed to be on the same page about the lamb definition to “guarantee that we can move to a fit-for-purpose sheepmeat and livestock language”.
“Having the right language across all production systems through to the trade and consumer environment is crucial to ensuring producers get paid for the attributes that consumers value most,” Mr Craig said.
Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said the proposed change addressed the sharp reduction in prices offered by processors for mutton compared with prices for lamb.
“[In regards to eating quality] research has shown that there is no noticeable difference between the time immediately prior to permanent incisor eruption and immediately afterwards,” he said.
He added that the integrity of Australian lamb as a high quality product the world over must be assured under any change in the definition.
Consultation is open until November 29. Details are at www.sheepmeatcouncil. com. au/lamb-definition.