During the evolution of lamb as a consumable product over the past 30 years, Meat and Livestock Australia managing director Richard Norton says the marketing journey has reflected the journey of lamb.
In his fine-dining dinner table talk with presenter Jason Tromph at LambEx last week, Mr Norton said lamb has gone from an only Australian product to now a multicultural product.
“In Australia 30 years ago lamb was a product that was on everyone’s table every night,” Mr Norton said.
“It was very much an Australian product to where it is today – now a multicultural product that brings people together and a product that has relevance right across the world.”
So how is lamb going to remain relevant under the new higher price regime or are we just going to go down the pathway of a boom-and-bust cycle that many other industries have gone through?
Mr Norton expressed the view that the continuation of marketing, especially the versatility of lamb, would win through.
“The versatility of lamb, from the low end to fine dining, and what we do with all of the cuts, as well as getting marbling scores to restaurants – that is what will underpin it,” Mr Norton said.
“We haven’t touched some of the markets across the world yet. Korea is already our forth biggest market of lamb, and they are only just starting to get a taste for it.
“Wait until it takes off in Korea, Japan and China.”
But he admitted there were a few challenges ahead.
“We are judged on how well we are going in terms of marketing red meat across the world in per capita consumption,” he said.
“My answer to that is in Australia it is very much a multicultural society. Red meat is no longer on the plate every day – but when it was lambs were making $15 to $30 a head.
“Now look at what they are making and it is because tastes have changed – restaurants and fine dining want versatility and they get that versatility from lamb.”
Mr Norton said transparency would strengthen the mules-free sheep debate.
“What comes with a $9 or $10 a kilogram lamb is full transparency – animal welfare practices on-farm,” Mr Norton said.
“If we want those sort of prices we are going to have to open our doors up and keep the trust with those consumers that we have globally.
“Our research shows that consumers trust Australian lamb. It is when we break that trust that then we will have to spend so much in marketing to get that back.”
But our biggest issue, according to Mr Norton, is the concern of getting more lamb on the ground.