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The price of lamb

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Matilda L

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The price of lamb

by Matilda L » Sat Aug 25, 2018 3:00 am

Down here in my part of Australia, we are having an existential crisis: the cost of lamb has gone through the roof, and it's actually getting scarce in the shops.

I was talking to a butcher at one of my two regular butcher shops today. He said that by early next year, us ordinary folks probably won't be able to get lamb.

This is all driven by exports. The suppliers of the meat can make so much money selling lamb to export markets that they are directing the majority of the meat in that direction. On the domestic market, prices have gone up significantly.

The five-chop rack of lamb I bought this afternoon was selling at $46 a kilo - which I think is a rise of about 25% since last time I looked at the price.

I inquired about lamb backstrap at my other butcher last week, and he said he had none in stock, had no prospect of getting any, and if he did, it would be selling for over $70 per kilo.

Lamb roast may be a thing of the past for a while chez nous.
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Barb Downunder

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Re: The price of lamb

by Barb Downunder » Sat Aug 25, 2018 5:32 am

Wow!
I confess that I don’t always look at the price and as my butcher operates out of our local independent supermarket it just merges at the checkout. I must take a closer look and have a chat with him. I would still buy some lamb regularly anyway but possibly smaller amounts.
Still gotta have roast lamb occasionally,!
I really like backstrap, and fortunately you don’t need much for two.
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: The price of lamb

by Jeff Grossman » Sat Aug 25, 2018 12:45 pm

Oy vey.

Speaking as the recipient of your offshore largesse... buying lamb is weird here, too:
- If you go to an ordinary supermarket, the choices are very limited; usually just shoulder chops, maybe a shank, maybe some stew meat. They often have ground lamb.
- If you go to a better supermarket, then you see Australian and NZ lamb, usually racks, usually frozen.
- If you go to the butcher's, then you see both Down Under and Up Over lamb, fresh, every cut.
- Finally, if you go to the farm, then you get a half lamb cut to order.

Prices in the first two category are pretty mild; prices in the last two categories are not. I'll make a note next time I see.


Jeff
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Dale Williams

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Re: The price of lamb

by Dale Williams » Sat Aug 25, 2018 1:18 pm

$46AUD/kilo is about $15USD/lb right? The 2 supermarkets near me usually have rib chops/racks ($18/lb, fairly often on sale for $10-12/lb. Leg is typically $6-7/lb (semi-boneless), often on sale (esp holidays) for $4-5. Sometimes butterflied is also $5/lb.
I don't usually buy loin chops, cheaper than ribs for sure. I'd say 50% of these NZ, 35% US, 15% aussie.

My local butcher has local lamb (racks, saddle, neck, etc) - considerably pricier, but I sometimes splurge.

But sounds like it's not US demand driving prices up in Australia, not any real difference. Maybe East Asian?
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: The price of lamb

by Jeff Grossman » Sat Aug 25, 2018 3:24 pm

Jeff Grossman wrote:- If you go to a better supermarket, then you see Australian and NZ lamb, usually racks, usually frozen.

Passed there just now. NZ racks, fresh, USD$16.50/lb. Equivalent to AUD$49.64/kg.


Jeff
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Matilda L

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Re: The price of lamb

by Matilda L » Sun Aug 26, 2018 6:54 am

Dale's remark about US demand not being the driver of higher prices here, I had a look on the Interweb to see who we send the lamb to. I found an interesting table on the Meat & Livestock Australia website, at https://www.mla.com.au/globalassets/mla ... --1807.pdf

If I can make a layman's summary, we export roughly the same amount of lamb to the US, to China, and if you add all the Middle Eastern markets together, to the Middle East. Then a slightly lesser amount goes to the East Asian/northern neighbours markets (excluding China). Then there's a category called "other" that is roughly equal to what we send to East Asia/northern neighbours. And there's the EU, a fairly small amount.

However, the % shift in exports to these various locations is probably the key. Some have gone up significantly; others down; but there's been an overall upward shift in exports of 15%.

Then when you add in mutton exports, it's a whole extra layer of stuff. We seem to send s**tloads of mutton to China. The single largest market for this meat, and a 115% increase this year.
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Paul Winalski

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Re: The price of lamb

by Paul Winalski » Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:48 pm

Matilda L wrote:Then when you add in mutton exports, it's a whole extra layer of stuff. We seem to send s**tloads of mutton to China. The single largest market for this meat, and a 115% increase this year.


That's most likely what's driving up the lamb prices and leading to the scarcity. Ranchers are letting the lambs grow into sheep instead of slaughtering them as lambs. I would imagine that their selling price for mutton is lower than for lamb, but since the animals are bigger, they, as it were, make it up in volume. And it's driving up the lamb prices. A win-win situation for the producers.

I wonder what's driving the sudden appetite in China for mutton? Traditionally lamb/mutton has been a meat that Chinese Muslims use as a substitute for pork in conventional Chinese recipes.

-Paul W.
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: The price of lamb

by Jeff Grossman » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:06 pm

I've spent a little time with my reading pal, Google. If you search "mutton sales in China" you will get back a lot to read. Leave aside the controversy about rat meat being sold as lamb. All the rest concern us here:
-- For several years in a row (2011-13), there has been drought in China's pasturelands which drove some sheep farmers out of business. There was also ruminant plague in 2013 which caused a mass slaughter of affected animals, further lowering domestic supply.
-- These pasturelands are also decreasing due to uncontrolled, rampant urbanization.
-- In a reaction against e.g. McDonald's the Chinese middle class is swinging heavily towards hot pot restaurants. These restaurants are heavy users of secondary cuts (so-called "caps and flaps").
-- Remember those rats? Well, problem solved, perhaps, but the lingering perception is that foreign meat is more trustworthy.

A perfect storm.

Here is a sample article:
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-newz ... W520140206
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Bill Spohn

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Re: The price of lamb

by Bill Spohn » Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:50 pm

We eat a lot more lamb than most areas in the US do - guess it is a Canadian thing. We get it from all over including excellent local and good Aussie lamb.

Just had to find small lamb shanks for a wine event and it was around $25 a kilo here. Hard to find small ones that will fit in a bowl!

BTW, there is a subterranean artisanal chicken movement here that farms several strains of free run chickens. They allow no one to go to the farm - you have to meet them in a parking lot so they can size you up and if they find you worthy, they sell you some frozen birds. A friend cooked one on the barbie and it was excellent! Must pursue this!
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Jenise

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Re: The price of lamb

by Jenise » Sun Aug 26, 2018 8:20 pm

Bill, your local Salt Spring lamb has no equal!

Costco carries strictly Aussie lamb. Trader Joe's has NZ. For racks of lamb from either, I expect to pay around $17-18/lb. Local lamb exists but of course it's what would more accurately be called mutton. The animals were clearly large/full grown and the meat is a deep red, usually rather gamey.

Jeff--good detective work and an alarming look into another way in which we're all connected. Whether we want to be or not.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Bill Spohn

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Re: The price of lamb

by Bill Spohn » Sun Aug 26, 2018 8:26 pm

Agree - used to buy whole dressed lambs for the freezer from Saltspring.

For lamb shanks you get fronts (smaller) and rears (larger) the latter being too large for a one dish meal. Finally found the fronts so I can do what I wanted.from New Zealand. Not baaaaad.
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Matilda L

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Re: The price of lamb

by Matilda L » Sun Aug 26, 2018 8:32 pm

Paul said:
That's most likely what's driving up the lamb prices and leading to the scarcity. Ranchers are letting the lambs grow into sheep instead of slaughtering them as lambs.


Exactly what my butcher said.
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Jenise

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Re: The price of lamb

by Jenise » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:11 am

Priced New Zealand lamb yesterday at Trader Joe's: $6 a pound for boneless leg of lamb, $15 for racks. Great prices.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Dale Williams

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Re: The price of lamb

by Dale Williams » Thu Aug 30, 2018 4:17 pm

My local Stop and Shop today (all Aussie)
Rack 12.99
Rib chops 15.99 (first time I remember seeing priced differently than rack)
Boneless leg 5.99 (reg 9.99)
semi0boneless leg 7.49

At Stew Leonards
loin chops 5.99 (reg 9.99)- think US
Rack (NZ), rib chops 18.99
Boneless leg 8.99 (NZ), 9.99 US
semi-boneless leg 7.99 AU, 8.99 US

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