US delegation’s visit marks step towards UK lamb exports

The first shipments of UK lamb to the US are expected to be sent this autumn, according to the AHDB.

Market access to supply the US with UK lamb was granted at the beginning of 2022, and this trade is expected to be worth about £37m during the first five years.

About 6.5% of the UK’s lamb exports could eventually be exported to the US, according to estimates by the AHDB export team.

UK sheepmeat exports to the country had previously been banned for more than 20 years by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) following outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the UK.

See also: US market to open for UK lamb exports from January

US delegation visits

Last week the AHDB hosted a group of US industry representatives who are interested in importing and processing lamb from the UK. Over five days the delegates visited farms, retailers and butchers, and attended the NSA event in Malvern.

Susana Morris, senior export manager for the Americas at AHDB, said: “The purpose of this visit was to connect key importers in the US with our lamb exporters in the hope that once commercial shipments begin, the UK is on the front foot and ready to export our lamb to this valuable market.

“The feedback we received was very positive, with our American visitors praising the taste of lamb from the UK, as well as being rightly impressed with the high animal welfare standards and the rich history of farming in the UK.”

Fernando Munoz, imported meat buyer at New York-based distributor G&C Foods, suggests there are a lot of opportunities for UK lamb in America, with the product being tender and well flavoured.

“I think opportunities exist within foodservice, but also in retail, and I’m really looking forward to UK lamb coming to the US,” he said.

John Gurner, from meat processor JBS USA, said the high levels of animal welfare and husbandry on show in the UK were a big positive.

“What you have over here is a very lean, high muscle, slightly smaller animal. It’s been a very good tour and great to see the farmers, their passion and their ability to use genetics. The science they are using here is probably more developed than a lot of places in the world,” he added.

US marketplace

Despite a large market with 330m potential consumers, lamb holds a very small market share in the US compared with other proteins.

Annual per capita consumption of lamb in the US is about 500g, significantly below the UK where the figure is about 4.1kg.

The US currently imports about half of its lamb, with the vast majority coming from Australia and New Zealand.

David Swales, head of strategic insight at AHDB, said: “The US is a high-value market with a focus on high-value cuts. This provides an opportunity for the industry to redirect some of our existing exports to achieve higher returns.”