A commitment to stand out from the rest has driven renowned Australian White sheep stud Tattykeel to launch its very own luxury lamb brand to the world.
For the last three months, Margra Lamb has been available to consumers in the US and the wheels are moving on an imminent launch in Australia.
Tim Leahy has been working with Tattykeel stud principal Graham Gilmore from Oberon, NSW, for the last 18 months to develop and promote the Margra brand and the defining characteristics that come with it.
"The journey started many years ago at Tattykeel when brothers Martin and Graham Gilmore (whose names inspired the name Margra) had a shared vision to develop an easy care, low maintenance meat sheep that fitted the Australian conditions; this resulted in the creation of the Australian White sheep breed," Mr Leahy said.
"The demand for their sheep genetics and transition of commercial sheep and cattle producers to the self-replacing Australian White sheep has been exponential the last few years.
"As the journey evolved, we identified that the eating quality attributes of the Tattykeel Australian White was quite unique."
These eating quality traits were confirmed through an extensive collaborated research project undertaken by Tattykeel and James Cook University, with project leader Associate Professor Aduli Malau-Aduli.
The research is now being published in international peer reviewed science journals.
"The Australian lamb industry has a strong focus on intramuscular fat (IMF), and we recognise its role in eating quality, however we have a much greater understanding that the melting point of this IMF, along with the role different fatty acids play, dramatically affects eating quality and ultimately the consumers' lamb eating experience," Mr Leahy said.
"All of these things have been analysed through the research project, in addition to identifying the lines of animals with the best eating quality traits, so the breeding program at Tattykeel focuses on the leading genetics in order to deliver a consistently superior lamb product."
He said the main driver of the Margra brand was making its unique fat properties the hero.
"Margra fat is much softer and more palatable; its distinct melting point of fat gives consumers an eating experience that we think is very unique," he said.
"If you asked me what lamb looked like once butchered, I would say it really looks more like a skinned rabbit.
"We have a history of removing fat for the simple fact subcutaneous lamb fat has a traditionally high fat melting point, and an inconsistent aroma due to variations in breed, age and nutrition.
"The fat melting point average of IMF for the lamb industry is normally between 40-48 degrees, with subcutaneous fat higher again, whilst Margra fat is consistently in the low 30s.
"This is a different paradigm to completely embrace fat - whether it be IMF or subcutaneous fat - because that is our main point of difference."
In the early stages of selling Margra Lamb in the US, they have made positive progress.
"During COVID-19, we have been flying Margra Lamb to our distributor in the US - Fagerman Farms - who are utilising a direct to consumer model," he said.
"Yes only 1 per cent of Americans eat lamb but we're talking about the biggest GDP in the world."
He said while COVID-19 had presented challenges, it had also provided opportunities.
"We've seen food service on its knees around the world, so being able to go straight to the consumer in the US has been a great way to begin," he said.
"Look at how we're shopping in Australia, everything's online and this trend is going to continue in the red meat industry."
Fagerman Farms is able to get Margra Lamb to a buyer's door in all states of the US within 24-36 hours of packing.
Margra is in the process of making its product available in Australia and is currently finalising an agreement with a distributor in Sydney.
When it came to promoting the product, Mr Leahy said it was about working from consumer to producer.
"We have sourced the assistance of the best people to help craft and promote the brand," he said.
"Renowned chef Mark Best, who ate the product 18 months ago during our trial phase, appreciated its unique qualities and has now come on board as our ambassador and brand advisor."
They have also had support from Meat & Livestock Australia throughout the brand build.
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Mr Leahy said the end goal was to be in the best restaurants in the world along with having a strong online presence.
He understood this would take time but knew it was about giving consumers great eating experiences.
"Lamb can get a bad wrap because it is all bundled together, it's like a lucky dip as far as quality goes," he said.
"As a consumer, you can have a piece of lamb and you don't know the brand, the breed, age, length of ageing after processing.
"By controlling the breeding, genetics, feeding regime, processing and cut specs, we feel we can elevate Margra Lamb and showcase its superior eating qualities.
"There's a great opportunity for brands with points of difference to really stand out, and our intention is to take lamb from a commodity to a luxury product."
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