American Lamb Quality Audit and Assessment Project

60% of the lamb consumed in the US is imported lamb from Australia and New Zealand.

It is critical for the US lamb industry to continue to improve the quality and consistency of American Lamb and understand the perceptions regarding American Lamb quality in the retail and foodservice sectors. Covid has signifcantly changed the sales and perceptions of American Lamb. This study will serve as a critical tool for the US Lamb industry to increase the value of American Lamb, increase competitiveness and capture market share from imports.

This dual-prong study is designed to:

 1) quantify and benchmark perceptions regarding American Lamb quality at the

retail and foodservice sectors across the U.s., and 

2) conduct in-plant audits and quantify characteristics associated with carcass yield and value.

The objectives of the project are:

(a) Conduct in-plant audits and measure characteristics associated with carcass fatness, muscling, yield and overall value.

(b) Identify how retail and foodservice customers of U.S. Iamb characterize (define) eight specified quality attributes.

(c) Estimate Contingent Valuation willingness-to-pay (WTP) by retail and food service customers for the specified quality categories.

(d) Establish a Best /Worst (BW) ranking of the importance of the specified quality categories.

(e) Document any additional quality-related or financial items of concern to each customer.

(f) Assess the physical, management and tenderness properties associated with fresh lamb cuts as presented at retail stores.

The most robust National Sheep Quality Audit was conducted in 1992-1993, in which case all phases of the production of sheep and of the generation of lamb, mutton, wool, pelts, milk, and lanolin were assessed. The audit traced each product from its origin on the farm or ranch through processing (in animal- harvesting plants and mills) to the consumer.

The most recent National Lamb Quality Audit, funded by the American Lamb Board and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, conducted by Hoffman and associates (2015), focused on the eating quality and factors influencing overall consumer satisfaction of lamb served at retail and foodservice sectors. Take home messages indicated that eating satisfaction to be the most important quality attribute (38.90%; most commonly defined as flavor /taste) when purchasing lamb. Origin (25.8%) and sheep raising practices (20.0%) had the greatest likelihood of being a non-negotiable requirement for lamb purchasers. Eating Satisfaction was most likely to return a premium (71.7%), and product assurance of eating satisfaction generated the greatest average willingness to pay premium (18.6%).

In conclusion, emphasis on quality attributes identified in this research project indicated that the U.S. Iamb industry is producing a consistent product in terms of eating satisfaction and lamb flavor. It should be mentioned that no in-plant data was collected in this most recently conducted quality audit.

The proposed 2021 /2022 National Lamb Quality Audit and Assessment Project is designed to repeat previously successful portion of the 2015 audit including interviews with retail and foodservice establishments that service lamb consumers to assess their perceptions about American Lamb including preferences and complaints associated with quality. It is critical to repeat these interviews to assess how Covid has impacted perceptions about American Lamb.

Sustainability will be added as a new quality attribute and bench marked in the new quality audit survey process. Live animal and carcass in-plant audits will also be added to the new audit and assessment. The research team plans to audit 5 plants.