Online study shows Americans prefer lamb produced in the U.S. | TheFencePost.com

Online study shows Americans prefer lamb produced in the U.S.

On the heels of Japan's acceptance of American lamb after a 15-year closure, a new survey by the American Lamb Board touts American consumers' preference for domestic lamb and a growing trend in consumption.

The study was completed to shed light on consumer preferences to inform best marketing practices to the consumer, many of whom are millennials, who say they enjoy a more adventurous eating experience.

The online study was conducted during 2018 among 2,084 U.S. adults aged 18-74 years. The American Lamb Board has three target audiences including: Infrequent Lamb Users, those who eat lamb less than four times a year and/or only in restaurants; Thoughtful Eaters, those who are concerned about where their food comes from and how it's grown; and Millennials, those who were born between 1980-2000 and who are also interested in food and where it comes from.

"This study revealed positive trends for lamb in the U.S.," said Jim Percival, ALB board chairman and sheep producer from Xenia, Ohio. "Among the general population, 24 percent reported eating lamb in the last year, up from 20 percent in 2011 and 21 percent in 2006. This is significant progress," he added.

FAVORED ATTRIBUTES

Of those who are consuming lamb, the study suggests that 35 percent of those who have tried lamb, like everything about it, up from 19 percent in 2011. Among lamb eaters, Percival said flavor, unique taste and tenderness are favored attributes.

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"Nearly seven in 10 said they have a strong desire to purchase American-raised lamb," Percival said. "Consumers say they perceive U.S. lamb as being fresher and safer."

Even at a 10 to 15 percent price increase over imported lamb, consumers said they still prefer American lamb at the higher cost. The study suggested that many American consumers are unaware how much lamb sold in the U.S. is imported from New Zealand and Australia. Megan Wortman, American Lamb Board executive director, said American lamb is clearly marked in the meat case.

"Regardless of labeling requirements, the overall trend we're seeing at retail is a consumer preference for local products and paying a premium for that," she said.

While consumer interest and enjoyment in lamb is growing, respondents said price and availability are the leading barriers to purchasing lamb in the meat case. The study also showed that learning more about preparing lamb, along with increased availability, could increase lamb usage.

Wortman said lamb is typically more sought after on the East and West Coasts with ALB dollars targeting Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Austin, Texas. These large and diverse markets are targeted as market research has shown that these consumers are more likely to purchase specifically American lamb and are the most likely to have access to American lamb in the grocery store.

Aside from Denver's population of adventurous eaters, Colorado is second in total inventory of market lambs, behind California, according to 2015 USDA statistics. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 392-4410.