Specialty Markets

Most consumers who purchase lamb through specialty markets are recent immigrants. The 2000 census[4] showed that 28.4 million people, or about 10% of the U.S. population, were foreign-born, with half of them coming from Latin America. More than 40% of the people in New York City were born outside of the United States. In contrast with the nonimmigrant population, many immigrants have cultural backgrounds that include fresh lamb or mutton as a major part of their traditional foods and they like to know the source of the meat they purchase. A large number of sheep farmers with small flocks are located near urban centers in the United States (Table 1). Some of these farmers have begun to market USDA-inspected meat and even live animals more directly to these consumers.

A traditional approach in the East is to sell lambs and sheep through auction markets such as the one in New Holland, PA. Although USDA statistics do not provide documentation for lambs marketed in New Jersey (Fig. 1, Table 1), large numbers of lambs pass through these markets on their way to New Jersey processing plants that service Muslim, Greek, and other ethnic groups in the

Table 1 Sheep and marketing statistics in the United States for 2002

Lamb cropa Ewes

--Farms Lambs marketed

Time zone State 1,000s Lambs/ewe (1,000s) Ewes/farm (1,000s)

Eastern MI SS 40

New Englandb SS S2

NY S1 40

OH 1SS 9S

PA 71 SS

VA SS S7

WV SS 24

Central IA 21S 142

IL S9 44

IN 47 S9

KS 62 SS

MN 14S 9S

MO 60 46

TX S40 720

WI 7S S2

Mountain AZ 40 S7

CO 200 170

ID 240 1S4

MT S1S 2S2

ND 100 SS

NE S0 SS

NM 12S 1S0

OK 46 S6

SD S2S 26S

UT 27S 27S

WY S40 S20

Pacific CA 2SS S10

NV 62 69

OR 1S0 1S4

WA S6 S6

Other statesc S4 S7

U.S. 4S60 S9S0

1.S

1.90

21

19

1.2

2.00

16

S.S

1.S

1.S0

27

7

1.S

S.S0

27

20

1.S

2.60

21

11

1.S

1.S0

2S

11.S

1.4

1.10

22

6

1.S

4.60

S1

74

1.S

2.20

20

12

1.2

2.00

20

S.9

1.2

1.40

SS

S1

1.S

2.S0

41

44

1.S

1.60

29

10.S

0.S

6.S0

106

2S0

1.4

2.S0

2S

1S.S

0.7

0.27

211

66

1.2

1.90

S9

164

1.S

1.00

1S4

SS

1.4

1.70

1S6

S4

1.2

1.00

SS

S9

1.4

1.S0

S9

27

0.S

0.S0

1SS

42

1.S

1.S0

24

14

1.2

2.S0

11S

77

1.0

1.40

196

42

1.1

0.S0

400

S7

0.9

2.S0

111

41S

0.9

0.S0

2S0

14

1.1

S.10

4S

111

1.6

1.20

S0

S.S

1.0

S.S

16

2S

1.1

64.20

62

1700.4

aLamb crop is defined as lambs born in the eastern states and lambs docked or branded in the western states. bNew England includes CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, and VT.

cOther states include AL, AK, AR, DE, FL, GA, HI, KY, LA, MD, MS, NJ, NC, SC, and TN. (Compiled from Ref. 1.)

New York City metropolitan area. Some farmers have adopted reproduction methods such as the Cornell STARĀ® system[5] to directly market fresh, young lamb year-round. Methods of direct marketing include sales of live animals directly off the farm, pooling with other farms to furnish a set number of carcasses of specific weight to ethnic butcher shops each week, and pooling with other farms to provide truckloads of fresh animals for live animal markets in large, urban areas. For example, more than 20 markets sell live sheep and goats and the service of slaughtering them to ethnic communities in New York City. More information on specialty markets is available from the Northeast Sheep and Goat Marketing Program[6] and from the American Sheep Industry Association.[7]

Lamb prices in the United States fluctuate seasonally, typically with higher prices during the late winter and spring. While prices through specialty markets are not higher during those times than prices of lambs marketed through commodity markets, they generally remain high throughout the year, while prices for lambs sold through commodity markets can be depressed during summer, autumn, and early winter.

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