UK lamb will have plenty of commercial opportunities within the US once shipments commence, according to an American meat importer.
Fernando Munoz from G&C Foods in New York believes the great taste of lamb from the UK and the passion of our sheep farmers will help open doors for exporters in this new and potentially lucrative market.
Fernando was one of five American visitors who joined AHDB last week to explore what opportunities exist for the lamb sector. His business has grown to be one of the most respected redistributors in the eastern half of the US – delivering to 27 states.
He said: “Now I know more about UK sheep production I believe there are a lot of opportunities in the US for your lamb. It has another story to tell, from another country and offers an alternative to US lamb.
“We’ve had a great visit to the UK and spending time with your farmers, we’ve seen they have a delicate touch to what they do – it’s not just ‘produce and go’. There is a story behind everything and a lot of love and passion for the job which you don’t typically see in other countries.
“It has been great also to taste the lamb, I thought it was tender and mild and had a great flavour to it – it was fantastic. I think opportunities exist within foodservice, but also in retail and I’m really looking forward to UK lamb coming to the US.”
The visit was organised by AHDB’s Senior Export Manager for the Americas Susana Morris, who has branded the event a ‘huge success.’
She said: “The purpose of this visit was to connect key importers in the US with our lamb exporters in the hope that once commercial shipments begin, the UK is on the front foot and ready to export our lamb to this valuable market.
“The feedback we received was very positive, with our American visitors praising the taste of lamb from the UK, as well as being rightly impressed with the high animal welfare standards and the rich history of farming in the UK.”
The delegation of importers and processors spent five days with AHDB and visited retailers, processors and farmers – including Cotswold beef farmer Dave Barton and sheep farmer Sam Jones in Worcestershire.
Sam, whose farm has been in his family for 90 years, welcomed the visitors on Tuesday and showed them around his farm and his flock of 1,500 sheep.
“It was great to meet with the American buyers and promote British lamb which we are trying to sell into America,” said Sam. “It’s a massive market and if we do it right it could make a big difference to our meat market in general.
“They visited the farm and went away with some great ideas and reassuring values of how we look after our livestock.”
Animal welfare in the UK scored highly with the American delegation, with John Gurner from JBS USA saying our production and care of animals was the biggest positive of the visit.
“I’d like to thank AHDB for this initiative,” he added. “It has been a great opportunity and learning experience for us as this is a market we have not looked at before as a company, but it will be a focus market now.
“What you have over here is a very lean, high muscle, slightly smaller animal. It’s been a very good tour and great to see the farmers, their passion and their ability to use genetics. The science they are using here is probably more developed than a lot of places in the world.
“But the level of animal husbandry and the care they have for their animals, has been one of the most positive things we have seen here in the UK.”
During their visit, the delegation attended the NSA Show in Malvern, where they got to meet key players in the UK sheep sector as well as hearing presentations from AHDB experts, Red Tractor and the NSA. They also had the opportunity to speak with Farming Minister Victoria Prentis, who attended the event.
AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley kicked off the presentations with an overview of UK agriculture, highlighting the current exports markets, as well as the current volumes and value of red meat exports.
He said: “This visit has been a huge success and we were delighted to host the delegation. At the NSA Show we had a really engaging session with our American visitors, and they had a lot of questions for us about capacity and price.
“This visit was an opportunity to make some valuable connections with five of the most respected lamb importers in the US. By showcasing our production methods, introducing them to our farmers and processors and providing lamb for them to sample, we have really been able to highlight the benefits of importing our red meat.
“We have also heard from our levy payers how highly they value our export work and are keen that AHDB continues to identify and open new markets for their meat. This visit was another example of the work carried out by AHDB’s export team to bring added value to the lamb, beef and pork sectors.”