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From tailgating to brunching to Sunday suppers, the American Lamb Board (ALB) has been promoting American lamb as the perfect fall protein through its “Sunday Funday” campaign. 

The contest is being promoted by consumer e-blasts, social media and lambassador bloggers. ALB’s blogger partners have also created some great new fall recipes to inspire consumers to get lamb incorporated into their Sunday celebrations. 

A collection of fall-based lamb recipes are available at americanlamb.com/consumer, or find other lamb recipes, including apple cider braised lamb shanks at runningtothekitchen.com/apple-cider-braised-lamb-shanks, a fall harvest bowl with lamb meatballs at twopurplefigs.com/fall-harvest-bowl-with-lamb-meatballs-recipe or the ultimate lamb chili at climbinggriermountain.com/2018/10/ultimate-lamb-chili.html. 

The Sunday Funday contest is designed to collect new consumer e-mails to stay connected year-round with seasonal recipes, cooking tips, contests and events. Lamb fans answer questions about their ideal “Sunday Funday” to determine their lamb personality – Sunday Bruncher, Tailgate Griller or Sunday Slow Cooker. Fans then receive two custom American lamb recipes and are entered for a chance to win a prize package from their category. 

There is still time to help spread the word about the contest. Winners will be selected on Nov. 15. The direct link to the contest is americanlamb.com/sundayfunday.

Laramie – With funding from the American Lamb Board and the goal of increasing awareness about American lamb, the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA), Mountain States Lamb Cooperative (MSLC), University of Wyoming (UW) and UW Extension partnered to bring chefs and food service distributers to Laramie for a two-day intensive workshop.

“We wanted to determine what barriers there are to putting American lamb on menus and break those barriers down,” comments Whit Stewart, UW Extension sheep specialist. “I think we accomplished both of those goals.” 

With lamb consumption on the rise, Stewart says millenials appreciate the strong flavor profile of lamb, and data suggests lamb is a product that is increasingly popular on restaurant menus, so there are opportunities to engage chefs.

Coming to Laramie

High-end culinary professionals, including hotel and restaurant chefs, catering companies and food service distributors from Wyoming and the Front Range of Colorado were invited to Laramie for the event, which included classroom demonstrations, hands-on workshops and an in-the-field look at lamb production. 

“On the first day, after we talked about our goals and the unique partnership between UW, MSLC and WWGA, we jumped right into lamb carcasses and grading,” Stewart says. “We looked at 10 carcasses and talked about how we currently grade lamb, for both quality and yield.” 

In the classroom, chefs had the opportunity to trace loin eye, measure back fat and more, followed by in-depth discussions about institutional meat purchase specifications. 

“Warrie Means is an excellent teacher and really walked through how lamb carcasses are graded now compared to how they used to be fabricated,” Stewart describes. “He also looked at emerging trends.” 

Mckensie Harris, a new instructor at UW, was also instrumental in providing information.

During the second day of the event, participants went to UW’s meat lab again and looked at modern lamb carcass fabrication.

“All the chefs wanted to get their knives and join in the fabrication. There was a lot of good conversation that occurred, talking about using different muscle cuts,” Stewart continued. “These chefs are confident and masters of their trade, but they would give hints as to new things they were walking away with.” 

Lamb production

One particularly notable aspect of the event was a pasture-to-plate tour of UW’s facilities, where chefs were given the opportunity to look at the entirety of the sheep production system. 

“On the first afternoon, we walked everyone through sheep production,” Stewart says. “We started on pasture where we have ewes with rams. We talked about breeds and how unique sheep are.” 

He continues, “This was a good learning exercise because we were standing on a rank grass pasture talking about how sheep use the low-quality ingredient to create a high-quality protein.”

Specifically, Stewart adds one of his main goals was to showcase commercial sheep production, noting, although producers work in economies of scale, it does not mean they are not sustainable.  

“It was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for some chefs, who realized that we use by-products and a low-quality feed resources to produce a high-quality meat,” he adds. “We also walked through the lamb feedlot and talked about how we tailor rations to string out the supply of lamb.”

During production conversations, Stewart was able to dispel myths about commercial lamb production, including misconceptions about the use of high-energy feed grains. 

“For example, one attendee didn’t realize that we couldn’t have grass-fed product year-round,” he adds.

“We walked through the production system to see that the lamb industry is truly sustainable, but there are a lot of challenges,” Stewart comments. “Understanding the challenges ranchers face seemed to inspire chefs to get more lamb on their menus.”

Overcoming barriers

Bridging the gap between the sheep industry and the restaurant industry was a main goal of the event, and Stewart says that the challenges that were perceived by lamb industry representatives were not necessarily the challenges faced by chefs. 

“These chefs work with major food distribution channels, but finding American lamb is hard,” he comments. “Food distributors don’t feature it in their order catalogs.”

“It was interesting that the barrier isn’t necessarily on the price point where we thought it is. Really, the barrier is in accessibility,” Stewart continues.

Establishing relationships with partners like the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative proved to be essential during the event. 

“The resounding themes after we finished also include the versatility of using leg steaks, shoulders as a pulled lamb product and different cuts for appetizers,” Stewart comments. “I think everyone thought about using less traditional cuts to make more money and add lamb to their menu, outside of just a rack of lamb or lamb chops.”

Chef perspectives

Among the many positive aspects of the event, Stewart says many attendees were struck by the cooperation between the public institution and industry stakeholders. 

Additionally, Stewart explains that, in culinary school, many chefs expressed they learned about cuts, but they learned less about the process of aging and the other meat science topics. 

“They were really passionate in talking about meat science,” he continues.

When asked why chefs do what they do, Stewart explains that many of them commented they cook to eliminate barriers and differences in people. 

“When people share a meal, they are more unified,” Stewart says. “When we looked at the production cycle and talked about the challenges that ranchers face, a light bulb came on for these chefs. They expressed how we need to tell our story better.” 

The idea that lamb from Wyoming, Colorado or Montana supports local economies also helped influence chefs to commit to sourcing only America lamb. 

“I think these conversations are going to last more with the chefs than anything else,” Stewart emphasizes. “Most of all, through this workshop, we created allies for the lamb industry.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – At this year’s Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) Mid-Year Meeting on Aug. 4, American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Executive Director Peter Orwick shared an update on some of the biggest issues facing the industry.

Frozen lamb

To begin, Orwick noted the high inventory of frozen lamb in the United States.

“As domestic lamb got backed up in the freezers, the country got behind on slaughter, so the old crop is left hanging over the market,” he explained.

To remedy the situation, USDA purchased nearly 480,000 pounds of bone-in and boneless leg product from the two primary lamb companies in the U.S. to send to food banks.

“The program helps to move product. It’s funded by tariffs on imported food, and USDA will spend that money every year,” Orwick said.

Spending is dispersed throughout various industries, depending on which food products are in surplus each year.

“It’s a good way for USDA to help out the lamb industry, and on another front, it’s also about international trade,” he added.

Trade

One hot topic related to international trade that Orwick highlighted is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which could impact commodity inventories. He pointed out that TPP mostly addresses countries with which the U.S. already has trade agreements.

“From the sheep industry standpoint, there is very little benefit to TPP because we are not going to send lamb to Australia or New Zealand, although we do send wool occasionally,” he stated.

Conversely, since there are no important trade protections currently in place for the lamb industry, Orwick added, “We are not giving anything up. We don’t have to fight like the other industries do to keep what they have.”

In other trade issues, Orwick expressed his hopes for Japan to reopen the market for American lamb.

“It gives companies an opportunity if they are sending prime beef into export markets. They can put boxes of prime and choice lamb on the same shipment,” he noted. “It gives them an opportunity to sell American racks in the best restaurants in the world instead of trying to sell it all in the U.S. markets.”

H-2A

While trade is always a concern for the sheep industry, Orwick explained that all dues paid to ASI go toward legislative efforts in Washington, D.C. to support the sheep industry.

“Wyoming and its delegation have been involved with every legislative fight, and true champions have come out of this state on behalf of the sheep industry,” he added.

This fall, one of the important legislative issues for the industry will be the final rule from the department of labor concerning the H-2A program.

“We are not going to see immediate language from Congress addressing H-2A because they are not going to have it on the spending bill until Thanksgiving or Christmas,” Orwick said.

ASI will focus its efforts on encouraging Congress to work toward a common sense and sustainable approach.

“There are a number of things in the proposed rule that make the program burdensome for producers to utilize,” he continued.

Language addressing wage increases as well as the definition of open range are the two aspects that most concern ASI, since the provisions could inhibit a sheepherder’s ability to operate.

“Producers need herders to take care of the sheep but also, if they are on federal grazing, they need herders to go out on federal permits,” Orwick noted.

Other issues

The next issue Orwick touched on was the conflict surrounding domestic and Bighorn sheep.

“If the government takes away grazing because of wildfire or drought, they have to provide an alternative grazing allotment to the producer,” Orwick stated. “We are asking that they do the same thing with Bighorn sheep.”

ASI continues to put pressure on legislatures and Congress to stand up for the sheep industry.

“We are going to have to hold their feet to the fire,” he said.

Price impacts

Mandatory price reporting for livestock was the next issue that Orwick brought up.

“We had a situation two years ago where, because of the government shutdown, all of the lamb companies were reporting the prices like they do or every week, but there was not a federal employee who was allowed to actually publish them,” he explained.

Nearly three weeks lapsed while markets operated on reports from the beginning of the government shutdown.

“We need to keep the pressure on Congress to pass mandatory price reporting,” he stated.

Programs

Next, Orwick mentioned that the lamb insurance product is once again available for purchase.

He explained, “It’s been totally revamped. The models and data going in has all been updated, and that insurance product was available again for sale the first of May.”

“Beyond that, we are looking forward to a couple of the new programs that we are launching,” Orwick continued.

At the end of the summer, ASI will be launching an announcement asking for entities, universities and other organizations to tackle issues concerning the sheep industry.

“The budget is going to go to the Board in the next week, and we are going to ask our Board of Directors to vote electronically,” he stated.

Researchers will be funded for projects that help sheep farms and ranches become more profitable and sustainable going into the future.

Orwick remarked, “We’re proud to have this opportunity.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Washington, D.C. – More than 70 sheep producers from 17 states gathered in Washington, D.C. March 6-8 for the American Sheep Industry Association's Annual Legislative Fly-In to meet with Congressmen and agency officials about the most pressing issues in the sheep industry. 

“We had a busy week, and it was a very successful fly-in,” says Shaun Sims, sheep producer from Evanston. “Our main goal was to visit with delegations from across the U.S. about some of the things sheep producers face in the West.”

Budget impacts

Tightened budgets at the federal level have dramatically impacted the sheep industry in several ways. 

“We talked about Wildlife Services funding levels, which is important,” Sims says. “Funding for WS has remained flat, and we need more dollars to get on the ground to control predators.” 

Sims notes the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) has also been a target recently – again. 

He emphasized USSES is the only research station in the high desert landscape, which allows the opportunity to study fire response, grazing regimes, sage grouse habitat and more. 

“All of these things are in addition to the daily research they do with sheep,” Sims comments. 

USSES collaborates with University of Wyoming, Idaho State University and USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Pullman, Wash. Research Station in a number of important areas. 

“Most recently, a hiring freeze has not allowed USSES to hire any researchers,” Sims says. “The only researcher currently on staff is also the station administrator.

He continues, “My fear is, when it comes down to budgets, Congress will ask why there hasn’t been much research come out of the sheep station, but the reduced level of researchers have handicapped USSES.”

Some entities are also expressing concerns about a lack of research from USSES.  

Bighorn sheep

An additional topic of conversation was the impact of Bighorn sheep for western range ranchers. 

Currently, Sims Ranch and Broadbent Ranches in southwest Wyoming run sheep on five allotments.

A settlement agreement was reached on 11 of the 77 allotments to conduct an environmental impact statement. An injunction was filed in the Ninth Circuit last fall disallowing grazing on two of those allotments,” Sims says, noting there is a possibility both Wyoming operations may see a halt to their summer grazing this year. “We had a meeting with the House Natural Resource Committee to talk about these impacts from the U.S. Forest Service.”

As a result of their meeting, Sims notes committee may hold an oversight hearing on Forest Service to hear more about the actions and issues that have arisen regarding Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep.

Agency impacts

During briefing sessions, sheep producers heard from USDA, Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and more, allowing them the opportunity to interact with officials and voice concerns. 

“In Washington, D.C., the agencies are looking to help producers,” Sims explains. “There is still some internal struggle inside the agencies, but overall, they are much more willing to help alleviate our challenges.”

Department of Interior (DOI) discussed their numerous activities and provided insight on how the department currently works. 

“DOI’s Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Aurelia Skipwith could not have been more strident about the importance of multiple use, including grazing, on DOI lands,” explains Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) Executive Director Amy Hendrickson. “She also talked about their efforts on wild horses and acknowledged the difficulties of the Endangered Species Act and species of conservation interest.”

Other news came in the recent announcement by Wildlife Services (WS) that M-44 devices would soon be available for use to control predators as a result of agency collaboration.

“WS went to the mat to get these devices back into use,” Hendrickson says. “It was regulatory conflict that forced WS to suspend the use of M-44 devices.”

She continues, “The problem was resolved with a change in equipment applicators must wear when placing or handling the devices and a new label that removes amyl nitrate as a requirement for the applicator to carry when placing or picking up devices.”

WS Director Janet Bucknell announced that M-44 devices are again authorized for use, and states authorized to use M-44s should expect to receive their first delivery sometime this week.

“We saw a very short turn-around on this issue, which is something we haven’t seen before,” Sims says. “This came about because, rather than WS and the Environmental Protection Agency working independently to do their analyses, they worked collaboratively.” 

“Overall, the agencies are working to try and make it easier for western ranchers to operate on public land,” he adds. 

Additionally, Sims notes USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue met with ASI leadership to talk about their challenges. Meetings between the Agriculture Secretary and ASI have not occurred since the early 2000s. 

Disaster programs

“We also met with the Farm Service Agency to talk about how disaster programs work,” Sims says. 

“In Wyoming, disaster payments under the Livestock Forage Protection Program and Emergency Livestock Assistance Program are tied to our grazing season,” he explains. “If we graze outside of a May 1 to Sept. 30 window – which almost all of the large range sheep herds do in Wyoming – we are precluded from qualifying to disaster payments.”

Sims notes agency officials in Washington, D.C. were perplexed by how Wyoming’s range sheep operations work and requested producers write the Washington, D.C. office of FSA to explain large landscape rotation grazing and how grazing management is impacted by disaster programs. 

“I’ll be working with the Public Lands Council (PLC) and American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) to draft a letter in the next week,” Sims says, noting that other producers who are impacted by FSA disaster programs dates should also reach out to ASI, WWGA and PLC for guidance in writing letters. 

“A lot of issues were brought to the forefront over these three days,” Sims comments. “In contrast to other years, I feel like we got a lot of good things started. We’re moving in the right direction, where we haven’t seen that in the past.”

In next week’s Roundup, look for more information on discussions around mandatory livestock price reporting for the sheep industry. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Park City, Utah – As the American sheep industry continues to face challenges related to a wide variety of issues, organizations are joining forces to tackle challenges.

“The American Lamb Board (ALB) is concerned about adding value to American lamb for all sectors who contribute to the American lamb checkoff,” said Dan Lippert, chairman of ALB.

The checkoff encompasses a wide variety of parties, from large and small producers across the country, seedstock producers feeders and processing and packing plants. 

“With that in mind, ALB spent a lot to focus last year, and we have some exciting research projects to talk about,” Lippert continued.

Lippert and ALB Board Member Wes Patton addressed attendees of the 2014 West Central States Wool Growers Convention on Nov. 7.

Creating a plan 

Patton noted, “We needed to try to put something in place to keep a crash like the one that happened a few years ago from happening again.” 

He continued, “ALB and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center (NSIIC) decided to fund an investigation of the industry that would point out the strengths and weaknesses of our industry and make suggestions on how those weaknesses could be fixed.”

A company from Boston took on the project, resulting in a number of recommendations that were compiled into the American Lamb Industry Roadmap.

“The purpose of the assignment was to identify and analyze the major challenges facing the industry and come up with the most effective ways to solve of those problems,” Patton explained. 

“The group said that, in five years if we don’t change, we would probably have 80 percent of our product imported instead of just 50 percent,” Patton said. “Many of the commercial producers would not be in business anymore. Traditional marketing channels would dry up. In 10 years, they suggested that traditional sheep industry would have collapsed.”

Making changes

Five teams were developed within the ALB to drive the future of the industry and implement changes suggested. 

“The implementation team was the overall group,” said Patton. “The Production Characteristics Team, Demand Creation Team, Productivity Team and Industry and Communications Team were all formed.”

A report was released in January 2014, and in the nine months since, implementation has been occurring.

Pricing

One objective given to the Implementation Team revolved around value-based pricing, and Patton noted, “They put together a team to look at that and said the industry had to change.”

“Producers deserve to be paid for the quality of product they are producing, not just the pounds they produce,” he continued. “The committee has suggested that, over a period of time, 80 percent of our product should be priced through a value-based pricing grid.” 

To accomplish the goal, Patton noted that a team was appointed to work toward grid pricing. 

“To have grid pricing, we rely heavily on yield grades,” Patton noted. “There is inconsistency in yield grades.”

The team has looked at electronic grading to improve consistency. 

“The ALB has invested quite a bit in getting electronic grading, and they have taken a group to look at how to help value based pricing and consistency,” Patton said.

Electronic grading has been introduced or is planned to be introduced in the JBS Plant in Greeley, Colo. and in Superior’s Dixon Plant in California, as well as in other places. 

“I think this is a tremendous move as far as making what we are doing more efficient, more accurate to satisfy the consumer’s needs,” Patton added.

Product

The Product Characteristics Team has also made important progress. 

“We have mild tasting, strong tasting and bad tasting lamb,” Patton explained. “We need to identify what those factors are that affect the taste of lamb.”

A group has been established to identify the factors impacting the taste of lamb, though Patton added that much of the literature available is dated. 

“The genetics of the animals have changed and the genetics of the feed has changed,” he said. “What the consumer is looking for has also changed, and we need to get in tune with that.”

ALB has supported funds for additional research in determining what factors are most important in the flavor of lamb, particularly those factors that cause bad flavors. 

Demand

To address demand, Patton noted that the Demand Creation Team has begun looking at both traditional markets and ethnic markets.

“Most of us represent the traditional marketing channels, and we have put in place a whole series of steps to look at marketing,” Patton noted. “We also sometimes overlook the Muslim and Hispanic customers. We have tremendous opportunity in these ethnic areas as far as lamb consumption is concerned.”

Other work

The Productivity and Improvement Team and Communications Team have also been working to accomplish their goals, as well. 

“The Productivity Team is doing some really interesting things,” Patton explained. “They are encouraging producer productivity groups, and we are talking about re-launching the National Sheep Improvement Program.”
Patton also noted that the group is looking at the needs for sheep research and hiring coordinators to support producer profitability groups. 

“The group that had the biggest job was the Communications Team,” he continued. “We tend to be a little bit secretive about the things we do, and this team has got to overcome that.”

The Communications Team also works to handle crises and get the word out about the sheep industry.

The future

“As we make some changes, we will know we have succeeded if we have lots of customers, if consumption has grown and if each sector of the industry is experiencing productivity,” Patton said. 

He also noted that the first nine months of implementation have been very successful, and he anticipates that their success will continue.

“Change is difficult, but this roadmap is the most promising way we have to make the U.S. sheep industry profitable and sustainable into the future,” Patton commented. “Remember, the challenge of change is to change – not to challenge change.”

Consumption

Looking back to the 1940s, American Lamb Board Member Wes Patton noted that people in the U.S. were consuming 4.87 pounds of lamb per person each year. That dropped to 0.31 pounds per person in 2012. 

“This is not a good trend,” he said. “The supply of lambs and consumption are going down, as well.”

Imports also provide an additional challenge for the industry, Patton commented, noting that imports provide 50 percent of consumption.


Consumer preferences

“This all starts with the consumer,” said American Lamb Board Member Wes Patton. “What does the consumer want from us?”

A study noted that consumers were looking for a high quality product with less fat. They also sought superb taste, tenderness, great nutrition and consistency. 

“Consumers said they were getting all of these things from the proteins, but not from American lamb,” Patton noted. “They also said that local was important. In some cases, grass finished was important.” 

Consumers also cited a whole list of preferences, including portion size and sustainability that the American Lamb Board is striving to meet.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..