Butchers are expecting lamb sales to jump this Australia Day, but a change in consumer eating habits during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant heightened demand would hardly be a "flash in the pan".
Australian Meat Industry Council SA retail chair Trevor Hill, who owns six Bruce's Meats stores in Adelaide, said a consumer desire to support Australian products had favoured lamb sales in the past year.
"People are wanting to give local support, and they know we don't import lamb, so buying lamb is underpinning a very small and close-knit SA market," he said.
"It's not an anti-Chinese sentiment, it's just a very pro-Australian sentiment. Consumers have always asked where products were from, but now it's a real enquiry of definite support, rather than a story they might tell over the dinner table."
Mr Hill said 'big ticket items' had sold surprisingly well since the pandemic started, with many people now having the time to stay home to prepare slow-cooked meals.
There have been times where we've been breaking sheep apart just to get the loin chops out of them, then selling the legs the next week.
"People are buying bigger legs of lamb so they can cook them and take some next door, or to their parents, so those who are more vulnerable aren't having to go shopping," he said.
Mr Hill estimated changed preferences and consumer eating habits were likely to "stick around".
"The pandemic has been going for nearly a year, which is long enough for people to have really changed their eating habits, giving us greater hope that post COVID-19, the meat industry will remain buoyant," he said.
Cummins Meat Store owner Glenn Buddle said while beef had always been a good seller, both beef and lamb had sold "exceptionally well" in the past year, with an improvement in lamb sales across the board.
"Lamb loin chops in particular have been incredibly popular. There have been times where we've been breaking sheep apart just to get the loin chops out of them, then selling the legs the next week," he said.
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As Australia Day nears, Mr Buddle expected sales to jump 30 per cent to 35pc, with "anything on a stick" to be in particular demand.
"Australia Day is always one of our busiest days, even though everyone knows it is approaching, there is no lead up, it's always the few days beforehand when we get pretty flat out," he said.
Meat & Livestock Australia domestic market manager Graeme Yardy was hopeful the success of the summer lamb campaign would heighten lamb popularity at this time.
"We feel confident that the fantastic reception the campaign has had so far will also generate strong returns for Australian lamb producers," he said.
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MURRAY Bridge butcher Rachel Llewellyn is encouraging people to support their local butcher, particularly with Australia Day coming up, to help their COVID-19 recovery and offset high livestock prices.
Ms Llewellyn, also known as the 'pink butcher', owns Monteith Meats with husband Ben, and said while it had been the busiest period ever in her career, like "Christmas all year", some butchers had done it tough during the pandemic.
"There may have been panic buying during the lockdowns and now more people are eating at home, but many small butchers lost business when the pubs and clubs were shut down, while others weren't able to adhere to the social distancing rules," she said.
"Many had to shut their doors for that time. Then high sheep and cattle prices have followed.
"Your local butcher may not be as cheap as the big supermarkets, but the meat is fresher, and often it is sourced from local farmers, which then supports that industry. They are also the ones passing on their support to other local businesses and organisations, donating out of their hip-pocket to help others."
A leg of lamb is like the equivalent of having a crayfish on your table for some at the moment, and beef is heading the same way.
Ms Llewellyn expected Australia Day this year to be all about family and friends getting together at home for a barbecue, and while the public holiday was synonymous with eating lamb, the meat was becoming more of a delicacy.
"A leg of lamb is like the equivalent of having a crayfish on your table for some at the moment, and beef is heading the same way," she said.
"I am a bit concerned about what the next few months is going to bring when it comes to prices."
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