American Lamb Board reports positive progress on roadmap implementationWritten by Saige Albert
“It’s no secret that the lamb industry has been faced with a major challenge,” said the American Lamb Board (ALB) in a March 27 update on the implementation of the Industry Roadmap. “An industry decision to be more intentionally proactive about this downward trend resulted in the adoption of the Lamb Industry Roadmap at the 2014 Annual Sheep Convention.”
The Roadmap, which was developed by leaders of every sector in the U.S. sheep industry, laid out the path by which the lamb industry looked to grow and improve.
“The Roadmap is much more than a set of guidelines, good ideas or wishful thinking,” ALB commented. “It’s a hands-on guide depicting a unified path toward industry growth.”
One of the major challenges facing the industry has been a decline in consumption of lamb by Americans.
Data shows that from the mid-1940s to 2012, consumption dropped from 4.87 pounds of lamb per capita each year to only 0.31 pounds.
“While many factors have contributed to consumer decline in consumption – some of those factors being outside our control – it was acknowledged that there were actions that the sheep industry could – and indeed should – take to move the bar in its favor,” ALB noted.
As a result, the lamb industry set four goals as part of its roadmap.
First, they looked to make American lamb a premier product every time. They also sought to promote lamb as a premier meat.
In the production chain, the Roadmap noted that the industry should work to improve productivity to remain competitive.
The final goal laid out in the Roadmap was to work together as a whole industry.
“Words on a page only have meaning when they inspire action,” ALB commented. “We are happy to report that the Roadmap has spurred some measurable activity.”
Among the measurable goals that they have accomplished, ALB’s Implementation Committee developed a statement to encourage value-based pricing urging all packers to strive to increase grid-based pricing to 80 percent.
ALB also approved a subsidy for three electronic grading machines to be installed in the industry’s three largest packing plants.
“These will enable more accurate grading than human grading,” ALB said, “and they will provide the packers with extensive information about meat quality.”
Another committee, the Product Characteristic Committee, is also wrapping up its Lamb Quality Audit, which will be used to formulate recommendations to improve the quality and consistency of the specialty meat.
“The Product Characteristic Committee also expects to make recommendations this fall to the industry at large on a definition of ‘lamb’ that is appropriate for a premium product,” ALB added.
The National Sheep Improvement Program’s re-launch efforts have also been successful, with increased enrollment of flocks, as well as increased interest in the program by commercial producers.
As a response to the third goal – improvement of productivity – the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) committed an additional $500,000 over three years toward the effort.
“A ‘Let’s Grow’ coordinator was hired in January 2015 to lead these efforts, and Round One grant proposal applications are being solicited to assist producer groups in approving productivity,” ALB mentioned.
Because demand has been a major challenge for the industry, a committee aimed at solving demand challenges formed a Marketing Advisory Council. The council is composed of top executives in the marketing arena to provide advice to ALB on effectively promoting lamb.
ALB noted, “The Demand Creation Committee is also supporting efforts to develop desirable lamb products from mutton to increase the popularity of ewe meat and thereby improve producer profitability.”
Lastly, the Marketing Advisory Council has begun looking at providing greater collaboration between the industry regarding consumer communications.
“While this listing is impressive,” said ALB, “it only represents a few of the Roadmap-inspired actions being undertaken. Each effort is being carefully shepherded and is at its own stage of implementation.”
They continued, “As the efforts build momentum, their effectiveness will be definitely felt by producers.”
As ALB looks toward its next step, they have targeted aggressive implementation of ongoing initiatives as a top priority.
At the same time, they have also introduced a new initiative to look at actions that can be taken to reduce volatility in lamb supply and price.
“We will also be launching other innovative and inspired initiatives formulated by other Roadmap teams,” said ALB.
“We’ll keep producers informed as our work together gains momentum, as new initiatives are unveiled and as the Roadmap continues to inspire and inform our efforts,” ALB commented. “We’re headed in the right direction.”