A NEW shoulder cut is solving the industry dilemma of heavyweight lamb carcases and inspiring chefs to keep lamb on the menu.
A focus on genetic improvement and management in response to declining returns resulted in heavier, leaner lamb carcasses in the 1990s.
Meat and Livestock Australia data reveals a continuing rise in the average carcase weight of Australian lamb with no sign of plateauing.
The average carcase weight of Australian lambs has risen from 21.5kg in 2013 to 22.2 kg in 2016, and it is projected to rise to 22.6kg by 2020.
NSW Department of Primary Industries meat scientist David Hopkins told delegates at LambEx 2016 consumers were showing a preference for smaller portions in innovative packaging.
“This has presented a challenge to the industry, as prepared in a conventional way, lamb cuts from such heavy carcases are too heavy for many modern one to two person households,’’ Dr Hopkins said.
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A joint MLA and Sheep Co-operative Research Centre meat science program has investigated the development of new cuts from lamb carcases over 25kg, focusing on sub-primals from the hind leg and forequarter.
Nutritive data has been obtained for topsides cap off, silversides cap on, outsides and knuckles. Further cuts under study are the topside cap on, silverside cap off, eye of shoulder and a new shoulder cut.
Dr Hopkins said retailers had used new packaging methods, such as skin packaging, to accommodate the new cuts.
An emerging cut with potential is the compact shoulder roast, borrowed from the pork industry. A section is removed off the neck side and the top of the leg using a straight cut through the joint between the scapula and humerus. The four-rib rack is removed and the scapula can be boned out for a boneless option.
“This cut is perfect for roasting and slow cooking, especially for pulled meat.
“In mass boning rooms at export works, this forequarter is easy to prepare and there is not a lot of extra knife work needed,’’ Dr Hopkins said.
MLA butcher Doug Piper demonstrated the compact shoulder roast to delegates at LambEx 2016, held at Albury on August 11-12.
He used a lamb shoulder off a 26kg carcase, and prepared a shoulder roast, shanks, riblets, shoulder rack and humerus bone portions.
“This gives us good value out of a carcass – you wouldn’t normally get this yield out of a shoulder cut,’’ Mr Piper said.
MLA chef Sam Burke demonstrated how Asian inspired recipes could have the compact shoulder roast cuts challenging pork in traditional dishes. He said slow roasted shoulder was ideal for serving with Chinese-style steamed buns.
“We are inspiring chefs and consumers alike.
“We look for opportunities to replace pork, poultry and seafood with lamb,’’ he said.
“We are using a better protein and adapting it to the Asian cooking style.
“It’s about offering turnkey solutions to food service to keep lamb front and centre, and reduce plate costs.’’
Dr Hopkins said the Australian market was following European trends in vacuum skin packaging.
“In the last two years, retailers in this country have really upped the ante in addressing consumer trends with easy to cook products, ‘’ he said.
“The future will be smaller portions, more value adding, more choice and less outer wrap product with the aim of protecting lamb’s market share.”