NORTH SYDNEY, Australia – The US was the single-largest export market for Australian lamb in 2012, taking 36,667 tonnes, however, most Americans don’t consume it, reports Meat&Livestock Australia (MLA). Most American consumers are stretched for time, not sure how to cook it and gravitate to less expensive. proteins.

One barrier for Australian lamb in the US is competition from less expensive proteins such as chicken, turkey and pork, iterates Stephen Edwards, MLA’s business manager for global marketing. “When on special, chicken breast could cost as little as $1.99 per lb., while whole, fresh pork loins at $2.60 per lb. are less than half the price of lamb legs.”

Comfort foods such as meatloaf, fried chicken, meatballs and stews, also have benefited in recent years during the global financial crisis, he added. Although the US market for red meat has picked up since 2009, American consumers still tend to only ‘trial’ lamb at restaurants.

“Fortunately for the lamb industry, US consumers are developing more ‘worldly’ tastes and are exploring new cuisines such as Middle Eastern, North African and Indian – which feature lamb,” he said. “American chefs are also increasingly diversifying away from traditional racks, to use shoulder and loin cuts in on-trend dishes such as Moroccan tagines and Indian tandoori.”

Markets such as the Middle East, South-East Asia, China and India are also developing a taste for Aussie lamb, due to its health and food safety benefits, plus being predominately Halal status. In 2012, Australian lamb exports to Middle East/ North Africa were 55,076 tonnes swt (up 55 percent on 2011) while the China market grew 39 percent to 29,521 tonnes swt.

“Middle classes are booming and consumers want to spend their disposable incomes on eating better proteins, which they couldn’t previously afford, and lamb fits the bill,” Edwards said.