About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008
An Unfolding Scandal
From Hansard's report on the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport.

"Senator Heffernan - ...The second thing I would like to flag is the need in Australia, which the government may like to think about, to harmonise meat standards. What I am talking about here is the substitution of lamb for sheep, which is common practice now, and a good proportion of the hoggets."

Chris Groves, president of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia told the committee more succinctly,

"There is no doubt that misdescription of hogget and mutton for lamb occurs. This misdescription risks reducing consumer confidence in lamb."

You would think the peak body for meat and livestock, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) would be horrified by such practices, but far from it. When informed of the issue by Senator Heffernan, they expressed a desire to keep such allegations under wraps and out of the media because the current lamb promotion is going so well.

In other words, MLA wants us, the general public, to keep on buying lamb, despite knowing that consumers are paying higher lamb prices for meat that isn't lamb. When approached to offer advice on how to identify what is real lamb at the retail level, an MLA spokesman, replying to my question, said they didn't have that type of information. This, from the peak body.

As well as an enquiry into lamb substitution, there ought to be an enquiry into MLA. Their attitude isn't good enough, heads need to roll.
  posted at 8:15 am

At 4:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right Neil, for too long we've been sold mutton & hogget as lamb.
Even two tooth is technically not lamb, as my understanding that it has been weaned from the mother.

This from the NZ lamb board.
"Lamb" definition - "A sheep less than 12 months of age or which does not have any permanent incisors in wear"

This definition allows sheep older than 12 months of age to be slaughtered as lambs if there are no permanent incisors are in wear.
This definition also allows for sheep with permanent incisors in wear to be slaughtered as lambs if it can be verified that the sheep are less than 12 months of age. Verification would be expected to be traced back to evidence that can unequivocally substantiates the age.

Just a few days ago all the states had only just agreed for uniform names for fish. The CSIRO put out a marketing names for fish a few years back but still parochial names persisted causing consumer confusion & some unscrupulous behaiour from some suppliers.

The meat industry is long overdue in being pulled into line & beleive me lambs are just the tip of the iceberg.
Try to get your butcher to explain the differences between A grade, steer & PRS. Most of them wont know what you're on about.

At 5:08 pm, Blogger Ran said...

I find buying meat can cause me to approach mental breakdowns as it is. I have recently moved to the burbs, and to my horror, there is only one local butcher, that only sells 'value added products'.

Though it wasnt any better in Richmond. i asked for a shoulder of lamb and the butcher said he didnt sell them. What do they do with the shoulders? Do butchers just get all their meat already cut up. Are they even 'butchers' at all???

but this is crazy. especially with lamb at like $36/ kilo. im going to stick to roo.

At 8:51 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi gobbler, it's funny, just a few posts ago I was writing about how lamb this time of year isn't so tender. I suspect this has been going on a very long time. That said, I actually like hogget and have bought mutton for special dishes. It's just so wrong that no one has stood up and said this substitution needs to stop, it can't be that hard to work something out, or is everyone in on it? All sheep are tagged these days, so dating them isn't a problem. perhaps its time to forget about where their teeth are at, as it is not a reliable indicator of their exact age. Perhaps abbatoirs could use different meat stamps for hogget and mutton, that would be the end of it right there. A friend suggested instead of hogget, perhaps we could say mature lamb instead, it sounds a bit better.

Hi ran, I've had the same thing, some butchers only order certain parts of an animal rather than the whole carcass, but they still have to break those down. At the abbatoir, lamb is worth about $3kg, so roo might be the better option, especially as they're being culled on a regular basis.

At 11:21 am, Blogger grocer said...

Neil, you touch on so many issues and I think eventually it boils down to what the consumer has come to expect after years of mis-education. There are two main lamb seasons as I understand it - both called spring lamb. One being lambs born in spring ready for eating in autumn, the other being lambs born in autumn ready for eating in spring. The thing is most people want access to lamb shanks (and whatever else) most of the year, but particularly winter.

I have written about lamb previously because there is even more to it when we start to take breed into account. In times of drought we see a great deal more "wool" lamb on the market because the animals become too expensive to keep. (Likewise veal...)

The MLA have an excellent site if you are interested in meat, cuts and definitions... Some of it is quite technical but nevertheless I find it useful.

I really think the government has dropped the ball on health, and one of the things that has prospered as a result is the inaccuracy of information touted about foodstuffs. There is nothing wrong with eating meat that isn't lamb, but it now has a stigma attached to it. Why is Beef labelled beef when really you could be talking yearling angus, steer angus, etc. before you even get down to the cuts. And then "celebrity chefs" and journalists are guilty of leading the consuming public astray when it comes down to how to use the different cuts.

As for the whole animal - there has been a shift away from this for a long time. Trucking carcasses around is expensive - it wastes space and fuel and it means that the vehicles can only be used for one purpose if they have hanging racks...

At 11:22 am, Blogger grocer said...

p.s. I still can't subscribe to your feed.

At 10:26 pm, Blogger Shakespere said...

Hi. Your blog is wonderful!
I really enjoyed reading and looking at it.

At 12:19 pm, Blogger Thermomixer said...

Great that somebody is passionate about this story Neil.

The big problem I believe is that this country just does NOT have a food culture. It may not seem that way when we click from one foodies' blog to another, but what percentage of average Aussies do you think have any idea what mutton is?

I share your passion. The most memorable experience of my Melbourne University days was seeing Michael(?) Redlich break a side of beef & explain the different cuts & how they should be cut to increase tenderness/eatability. He showed how to take a piece of skirt steak & cut it in butterflied fashion to produce tender steaks from meat that the average person would discard as inedible. That was over 30 years ago & it is still vivid in the memory.

Part of the problem from my observations relates to the fact that so much meat is now sold thru supermarkets. Having produced lamb and been heavily discounted for sheep that have their second teeth just starting to erupt, when you know the buyer is from a supermarket chain that will sell them as lamb - makes your blood boil.

Not only have I reared lamb for market but also having killed & butchered my own sheep I also know that two-tooths/hoggets with good aging in the chiller have far better flavour and are just as tender as a 12 month lamb.

It wouldn't happen in Spain or countries with a food culture. Don't want to start you on another related issue, but olive oil.....

Thanks for being concerned enough to put it out there.

At 4:44 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi grocer, thanks for all that important info, I can see you are passionate about it too. One thing I'd say about the MLA website definition of lamb is that having two versions makes it too confusing and works in the farmre's favour, not the consumer. The whole thing needs to be streamlined and hopefully these first rumblings will be the catalyst for change. Not sure about the feed thiong, will look into it.

Hi shakespere, thanks for your kind words.

Hi thermomixer, I totally agree with you about the taste and flavour of hogget and if I could buy some, would. Have you ever seen it for sale? Makes you wonder about those discounted legs of lamb in the supermarkets, doesn't it? I bet more foodies know what mutton is but don't know much about hogget, funny that, they have almost certainly eaten some.

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