THE cutting of its first permanent tooth has determined the value of lamb for decades but a review of the lamb classification could see this change.
Industry representatives are set to discuss pursuing changes to the AUS-MEAT language which currently defines a lamb up to 12 months of age with no erupted permanent incisor teeth.
Producers and processors have long debated the restriction in the definition which has been argued to have caused a substantial amount of Australia’s flock to be sold prematurely at sub-standard weights, in a bid to avoid discounting associated with older sheep.
The changes to the language could see Australia adopt New Zealand’s system, which refers to lamb under 12 months old and allows two teeth before downgrading the lamb to hogget.
The issue is on the agenda of an industry meeting between the Sheepmeat Council of Australia’s (SCA) and the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) on Tuesday in Dubbo, NSW.
The lamb specification language review is part of Sheepmeat Industry Strategic Plan 2020 and Meat Industry Strategic Plan 2020, which SCA chief executive Kat Giles said aimed to optimise product quality and cost efficiency through greater feedback to producers.
“Next week the SCA Board will meet with AMIC sheep processing members to discuss the specification language required to enable industry to enhance animal health, carcase measurement, and grid compliance feedback channels to producers.” Dr Kat Giles said.
“The first component of livestock specification language that has been tabled for discussion by both councils is the current definition for lamb.”
SCA commissioned Holmes Sackett to review the current definition of lamb and the potential implication of adopting NZ’s system.
The report identified a substantial degree of risk moving to a definition beyond what is currently used in New Zealand, which Dr Giles said meant that if a change occurred it would be unlikely to be to two teeth not in wear.
“The SCA Board and AMIC are set to consider the final draft report next week, after which the SCA Board will decide whether to rule out any further investigation of a two teeth not in wear definition,” she said.