Two weeks ago, Sue and I hosted Mike Lee, a young New York-based food design and innovation consultant on our farm. Mike was hugely enthusiastic about the future of this country’s grass-fed beef and lamb and told us that – as sheep and beef farmers – we were sitting on a goldmine.
We just need to start extracting.
His positivity was refreshing, especially as we looked over the region’s parched landscapes and ate lunch in our home which, like many in North Canterbury, has been badly damaged by earthquakes.
Meat is trending
Mike told us that in New York, meat was trendy (thanks in part to the vilification of sugar) and butchers were the new “rock stars”, opening up boutique butcheries which allowed them to showcase their boning skills and share their knowledge.
Grass-fed meat was fetching a premium in supermarkets, restaurants and popular bone-broth cafes.
He believes sheep and beef farmers have a great story to tell about the way we produce our beef and lamb - we just need to get better at telling it. Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s recently launched marketing strategy is doing exactly that – telling the grass-fed, red meat story and creating value for our product and our farmers - and we need it.
Market prices holding
Lamb schedule prices have held since Christmas due to low lamb inventories. Demand from China for lamb flaps is good, but pelts are worth very little. In the UK our Lamb is fetching a higher price than last year, but returns to producers are severely eroded due the exchange rate following Brexit.
Beef prices are holding and are expected to remain firm throughout 2017.
Returns for mutton have been considerably better than last season – and interestingly, Mike told us that the “signature” dish in a famous New York steak house was a big, thick mutton chop.
National Lamb Day
Fortunately, it was lamb and not mutton on the menu when industry got together recently to celebrate 135 years since the Dunedin set sail from Port Chalmers with a cargo of 5000 frozen lamb carcases.
Assisting earthquake-affected farmers
Closer to home, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers, local farmers and authorities are putting together a funding application proposal to the Ministry of Primary Industries for a farmer-led Post-Earthquake Land and Business Recovery Project.The focus of this will be to assist farmers whose businesses have been severely impacted by land movement and destabilisation.
There is a need to understand what has changed within individual farm businesses, and to support those involved to make good decisions and set appropriate outcomes. Particularly in regard to farm infrastructure, business continuity, land management and future land use. The project will also inform policy and legislative structures to support recovery.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Annual Meeting will be held 2.30pm on 30 March at South Island Agricultural Field days. Any levy-paying farmers are welcome to attend.
Phil Smith is Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Northern South Island farmer director.