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On the Lamb : The Selling of the Lamb

April 08, 1993|RUSS PARSONS

Things are tight in the lamb world these days. After several years of oversupply, producers cut back on how much lamb they were raising. As a result, there is less lamb on the market and prices are higher.

For example, a couple of years ago, the wholesale price for whole lamb carcasses was around 45 cents a pound. Last year, it had rebounded to the break-even stage--55 cents to 60 cents per pound. This year, it's around 80 cents per pound.

Fortunately for lamb lovers, retail prices won't be much higher than in the past. Since lamb makes up such a small part of the American meat market (a lamb industry representative estimates it makes up only 1% to 2% of total meat sales in supermarkets), ranchers are not able to raise prices as freely as they would if they were growing, say, iceberg lettuce or another staple item.

There's more good news. Most of the lamb that comes to market in the spring comes from California--primarily the stretch from Kern County to Fresno County with more in Solano County. And due to the rain this winter, lamb this spring should be meatier than normal. Lamb is coming to market roughly 10% heavier than last year.

At this time of year, most people buy a leg of lamb for Easter eating. Therefore, you can save money by buying shoulders, shanks and ground lamb, which aren't as popular, but are just as delicious.

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