American Lamb on the Rise

American Lamb Is Part of U.S. Culture

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

American lamb is as popular as ever. California Ag Today recently spoke about lamb with Jim Percival, chair of the American Lamb Board, who is also a lamb producer in Ohio.

“It is part of our culture, and the majority of the folks that raised lamb in the U.S. are family operations, family farms,” Percival said.

Some of the farms are generational: three to five generations old. The American Lamb Board is working to build that domestic demand for lamb. They have seen an increase in the last couple of years.

“We are finding that millennials love American lamb, and that is one of the things that excites us,” Percival said.

John Percival is Chair of the American Lamb Board

“[There’s] our Feed Your Adventure Side campaign; we have also worked really hard to make lamb more approachable, easy to serve, and easy to fix,” he explained.

“The millennials also want something different, and lamb is a wonderful premium protein and they love the taste. They love the texture, they love the meat, and they’re flocking to it.”

Lamb is especially popular in California and other places on the West Coast.

“We still do that lamb jam every year in San Francisco, and that is still a huge event that a lot of people show up to,” Percival said.

After 16 years without open trade, Japan has recently opened back up for American lamb producers. Trade was closed after the BSE scare, and lamb was never able to be exported into Japan. As of two weeks ago, the first load of American lamb was shipped to Japan.

The demand there is very strong; the Japanese want that premium protein product.

“The chefs over there are asking for our product, and we see that as a real opportunity for growth for American lamb,” Percival said.

“Japan was one of our biggest trade partners before it was closed. I’m sure it is going to have a huge impact on the California producers, and the demand there is very strong, but as with anything else, our biggest thing is to make sure that more Americans are eating more American. Lamb,” Percival said.

The American Lamb Board, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, and ASI all worked together to open the market back up with Japan.

TPP Must Pass

Kent Bacus: Congress Must Pass TPP To Help All Ag Exports

 

By Brian German, Associate Editor

 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has the potential to increase demand for U.S. food products among 500 million consumers in 11 Pacific Rim countries that are included in the partnership. Many of those ag products are from California, including beef.

NCBA LogoKent Bacus, director, International Trade and Market Access for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), said, “First and foremost, Congress needs to hear more from the people back home and they certainly need to hear from the business community.

Recently, we sent a letter to Capitol Hill urging a vote this year on TPP, that was signed by 225 agricultural associations and companies from all across the United States, from cows to cranberries,” stated Bacus. “We had a very diverse group of people on that letter. But, by and large, it really says, ‘It’s time to move. It’s time to stop finger-pointing. Its time to put our differences aside, and its time to move forward with TPP.’”

Kent Bacus, Director of International Trade for NCBA
Kent Bacus, Director of International Trade for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)

Bacus said passing TPP will greatly help California farmers and ranchers. “Unfortunately,” he explained, “we have a 38.5 percent tariff on our beef that goes into the Japanese market. TPP levels the playing field for us with our leading competitors for those Japanese consumers. Without that, we’re going to see our market share continue to drop in our leading export market. The benefits of this trade agreement far outweigh the status quo,” he said.

Noting opposition from both the right and the left, Bacus  stated, “Politically this is an easy target to swing at because not a lot of people understand trade. So it’s important for us to tell the positive stories of trade, and for the beef industry, it is simple: Americans aren’t willing to pay a premium for cuts like the beef tongue or short ribs, much like our Japanese consumers will,” he said.

One key component of the TPP is the reduction in tariffs and other market barriers. Failing to get the agreement passed would essentially give other nations a competitive advantage in the international market. “In 2015 we sold $1.3 billion dollars worth of beef to the Japanese,” Bacus said. “But that was down nearly $300 million dollars from 2014 because our leading competitors, the Australians, had a trade agreement that went into effect giving them a 10+ percent tariff rate advantage over us into our leading export market.”

“So unless we want to level that playing field—if we are fine with the status quo,” Bacus said—then we’re going to lose that market. And we’re going to lose a lot of the value added that the market brings back to cow-calf producers and feeders, and everyone along the production chain.”