The definition of lamb is set to be changed to make Australian producers more competitive in the international export market.
Announced by Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud last week, the change will see Australia adopt the New Zealand definition of what constitutes a lamb.
Lamb had previously been considered to have grown into the less lucrative ‘‘hogget’’ or mutton as soon as incisor teeth were visible.
Yet in New Zealand lamb was still considered lamb after two teeth had popped through.
‘‘Lamb will continue to be called lamb when the animal has two permanent incisor teeth, so long as those teeth are new and have not begun to wear,’’ Mr Littleproud said.
‘‘This will mean our growers can sell more lambs towards the end of the growing season and expand their lamb export opportunities.
‘‘It will be easy for growers to see when a lamb becomes a sheep when there is visible wear on the incisors.’’
The announcement has been welcomed by Sheep Producers Australia, which said the change delivered farmers ‘‘confidence’’.
SPA chair Chris Mirams said the body would continue to work on an implementation plan for the change in definition.
‘‘The change will allow producers to continue to deliver the quality and consistency in lamb that our customers know and love,’’ Mr Mirams said.
‘‘The new definition will even the playing field with New Zealand in our export markets and provide producers with an indicator before they incur the price cliff face of lamb being downgraded to hogget or mutton.’’
Research by Meat and Livestock Australia found no discernible difference in eating quality between lambs immediately prior to incisor teeth and immediately afterwards.
The change will require amendment to the Export Control (Meat and Meat Products) Orders 2005 to change the definition of what constitutes lamb.
The change is expected to be in place by mid-next year.