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Lamb no longer dressed as mutton under long-awaited law change

Central Wheatbelt MP Mia Davies has welcomed a decision to amend Australia's export laws so sheep with two permanent incisor teeth are considered lamb.

The Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud this week moved to amend the definition of lamb to mean a young sheep under 12 months of age or a sheep which does not have any permanent teeth in wear.

The change meets current standards in New Zealand, which is Australia’s main competitor in lamb export markets.

“This is an issue that growers and representative bodies have raised for some time, I welcome Minister Littleproud’s decision,” Ms Davies said.

“In NZ, lambs are still considered lamb when the animal has two permanent incisor teeth, as long as there’s no wear.

“This is a common-sense change meaning our growers can sell more lambs towards the end of the growing season and expand their lamb export opportunities.

“It will also be easy for our growers, who contribute to a sheep meat industry worth more than $500 million to WA annually, to see when a lamb becomes mutton – when there is visible wear on the incisors.”

The change in definition will occur by amending regulations to the Export Control (Meat and Meat Products) Orders 2005 under the Export Control (Orders) Regulations Act 1982.

It will allow growers to sell as lambs sheep that develop their permanent teeth earlier than usual and help create a market for older season lambs.

Research by Meat and Livestock Australia found no discernible difference in eating quality between lambs immediately prior to incisor teeth and immediately afterwards.

The Nationals’ spokesman for agriculture Colin de Grussa MLC said the change was a win for WA producers, who have had a tough 12 months.

“New Zealand had an advantage over our lamb exporters as their definition allowed longer growth times,” he said.

“Off the back of a tough period for producers who are grappling with live export supply chain blockages, this comes as welcome news.”