What are the changes to the definition of lamb?

On 1 July 2019 the definition of lamb is changing in Australia.

The current definition of lamb is:

A female, castrate or entire male that has 0 permanent incisor teeth.

The new definition is:

An ovine animal that:

(a) is under 12 months of age; or

(b) does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear.’

The new definition will apply to ovine animals that are slaughtered on or after 1 July 2019 and allows for the eruption of permanent incisors in lamb, as long as they remain not in wear.

The change is the result of years of work from AMIC and Sheep Producers Australia working together for the benefit of the entire supply chain.

Why have these changes come into place?

The new definition is in line with the New Zealand definition of lamb, Australia’s largest competitor and provides an even playing field for Australian and New Zealand producers who supply the bulk of lamb that is traded in the world market. Previously Australian producers have been at a disadvantage.

The new definition also prevents the ‘price cliff’ for producers, where currently one day you have a lamb, and the next, it can be a hogget or yearling, due to a permanent incisor breaking through.

The new definition gives producers greater certainty and a definitive signal to make moves to market their lambs.

Will eating quality be affected?

Eating quality has been at the centre of the decision to change the definition of lamb. Peer-reviewed research found that a minor change to the definition of lamb such as one or two permanent incisors having erupted but not being in wear produced no discernable difference in eating quality to lambs with only milk teeth. The average time between eruption and being in wear is only 27 days.

The change may even improve the quality of lamb on the shelves, as producers have the confidence to put the optimal amount of condition on their lambs prior to sale.